Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lost in translation

Yesterday I saw a nice lady, who spoke reasonably good English, but her primary language was French.

So she was accompanied by her niece, who said she was here to translate.

I only speak English. And guess what? So does the niece!

Her idea of "translating" was like the old SNL "News for the Deaf" skit. Like this:

Dr. Grumpy: "Where is the pain?"

Ms. Niece: (pulling on patient's sleeve and shouting in her ear) "THE DOCTOR WANTS TO KNOW WHERE YOUR PAIN IS?!!!"

This went on for an hour. The patient spoke good English, and could hear perfectly well. By the end of the appointment I think we were both ready to strangle the niece.

22 comments:

Mr Mobius said...

Have you just chosen a really bad geographic location for your office, or do you magnetically attract these sort of people. Surely this isn't the average for doctors, or at least I hope not as I'm training to become one (and interested in Psych, so pretty likely to get all of these).

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I'm in a pretty generic middle American suburb. Annie tells me that I just attract these for some reason.

The Mother said...

It's your magnetic personality.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is a secret rune on your office door, akin to the one on Bilbo Baggin's hobbit hole, which can only be read by the truly annoying.


WV: knestra, coming soon to your local pharmacy

Old MD Girl said...

Haha. At least we know it's not just Drs who do this.

Li'l Azathoth said...

She learned that during her semester abroad in Paris.

Kim said...

My in-laws immigrated to the United States from Germany. Several years ago my husband's uncle was visiting from Germany and we decided to take him on a tour of our hometown brewery because we knew of his fondness for beer, and our hometown has a damn good brewery. The tour was just about to start, and the tour guide said 'Is anyone here today from out of town?'. My husband's uncle, upon hearing that question, raised his hand and said, in perfect English, 'I am from Germany and I am here visiting my family.'. The tour guide then looked at my husband and me and asked 'Does he speak English?'.

ERP said...

You should have spoken in Monty-Python accented French.

Eileen said...

I live in the German-speaking area of northern Italy. I speak fluent German but with an accent as I was over 30 when I learnt to speak it. I frequently meet people who insist on speaking incorrect German to me - all verbs in the infinitive for example, as if that makes it easier for me to understand. Then they try to speak English to me. I don't mind if their English is better than my German but it very rarely is.

SeaSpray said...

You're blog is terrific!

Your humor cracks me up.

I have been thinking about your calling your 0ffice partner "Dr Pissy" for days. So FUNNY!

And in your profile, "The names, minor details, and dates of occurrence have been changed to protect the irritating." - Hilarious. :)

Blogrolling you now. :)

Oh ..I really enjoyed Grand Rounds 7, but was disappointed I couldn't access Crayzee 1,2,3,and 4 submitted by your secretary. I worked in emergency registration for 20 yrs and so would've appreciated their input for sure.

I also think it's great that you appreciate your secretaries so much. :)

a.generic doc said...

My father's method for asking questions of his Spanish speaking customers was to loudly ask the question again and again.

At some point, another customer who spoke Spanish and English would translate.

The problem for your patient was that the soundproofing in your exam room was good enough that the shouting couldn't be heard by someone in the neighborhood who spoke French to come in and help.

Anonymous said...

My family has an in joke about this exact same thing happening to my grandma and my mom. We are immigrants from Russia but have lived here a long time, so my mom has great English and my grandma's is great considering she moved here when she was 60 years old. My grandma was opening up a bank account and my parents were with her. Apparently, the teller would say something to my grandma, then my mom would 'translate' what he said, but still in English! My dad still cracks up when he tells the story. My mom maintains that it makes sense since she knows how to explain something in English to my grandma but in different words. Why she just didn't say it in Russian I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

i have traveled in mexico with a good friend who just knew that saying how much ees thees a little louder was a better strategy than learning cuanto questa?.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

Love those translators that want to run the show. We find they are always close at hand when the person does not need one, but the opposite isn't true....

Moose said...

THANK YOU AND HAVE A PLEASANT TO-MOR-ROW!

RehabNurse said...

Grumpy:

Be happy to translate for you if said lady ever comes 'round again...assuming you need someone to actually speak French! All that time in France and Quebec put to good use.

And I never hardly use it anymore. Need to move back East or something!

Shalom said...

The comedian Emil Cohen told a story about how an older Jewish man was called into court to testify in a case. The judge took one look at the fellow with the long beard, sidelocks etc. and immediately sent for the Yiddish interpreter. He asked the interpreter to ask the old man his age. Interpreter says in Yiddish "Der Judge vil vissen, vie alt zeit dir?" Man replies, with beautiful Oxford accent, "Tell the judge I am sixty-two years old." Interpreter tuns to the judge and says "Your Honor,
ער האט געזאגט ער איז צוויי און זעכציק יאר אַלט..." (Er hat gezogt er is tzvai und zechtzik yor alt)

Outre said...

This post reminded me of my 8th grade English teacher that I've wanted to punch multiple times.

"Oh, you are that ESL kid, HELL-O, MY NAME IS MRS. PEACHFUZZFACE, DO YOU UN-DER-S-TAN-D WHAT I AM SA-YING TO YOU?

The over the top enunciating never stopped the entire school year. She was the only teacher that never got it. Everyone else after speaking for me for few minutes reverted back to normal speech... but not Mrs. Peachfuzzface, no. (I also wanted to shave the peach fuzz off her face. I was a mean child)

Mathi said...

Duh. The neice wasn't sent there to translate. She was sent there to give her mom a couple hours peace at your (and her aunt's) expense. :)

Anonymous said...

Yet another fine mess you have gotten me into, *Auntie*!
Brainless-kinfolk stranglers of the world, unite!
[Oww! Just got it in the neck again!]

verif: "anesse"
princess "priceless" maybe??
(resisting making less polite suggestions here)

Anonymous said...

Ouch...but be thankful you don't practise in a country with eleven official languages -- things get tough out here!

C said...

That experience reminds me of the "how NOT to use a translator" video they made us watch last year in clinical medicine class- I can't believe the niece, if I were the patient I'd have made her leave.

 
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