Monday, February 4, 2008

Languages... and their barriers..

Currently having no patients in my clinic, so decided to blog maybe the last post before we moved into the year of the rat (Yes people... babies in 2008 are now known as rat-tat-tou-ies). Ok, before I start on rat jokes.. Here's the deal..I'm sure everyone have encountered language barriers before, be it at work, or out of work. To me, being bilingual, helped me in the sense that I can speak Malay to the Malay patients, but I can't communicate with the Chinese only speaking patients (including all the dialects). Simple Chinese, be it Hokkien, Cantonese, Foochow.... maybe a speck of Hainanese I can make out throughout the years of medical school.. but when the people start to go off-tangent to tell me about their life stories...hm... a simple smile and nod is what they'll get out of me.. and somehow, sometimes it doesn't work even if from the start that you tell them you don't understand Chinese. I don't blame them though, some of the patients I see are more interested in telling me about their sons, daughters.. etc etc etc rather than the problems they came to see me for (or even worse, tell me about their blood pressure, diabetes... when I'm only seeing them for their sport injuries). Sometimes I feel like I'm their outward venue for venting.. even if I don't understand a word they say. Weird, huh?.. how some professions automatically makes you the "it" man for everything. Do this kinda stuff happen to others as well? That I wanna know. Like when you tell someone you're an engineer, do people start telling you about the car problem they had, even though you're an electrical engineer... hmm...or better yet, they tell you they had a car problem in Bangladeshi when you clearly do not understand a word they say :). hahahah.. that reminds of the time I had to examine a Bangladeshi patient, and the only thing I undestood was "amama, amama..." - his clear expression that he had pain when I was pressing over the pained area. Then when nearing the painful area again, it changed to "apapa, apapa...." hehehe...

I think the only time someone really irritated me was at 4am in the morning, and I was on call. I was sleepy, toilet deprived, with sore legs from thigh to toe, and hungry. I told the patient that I do not understand Chinese... and proceeded to questioning him since he understood sufficient English to answer my questions to keep him alive for the rest of the morning. I got quite pissed of when he asked me incessantly why I don't speak Chinese... am I from a baba clan? how come I "never" learn Chinese? Am I from overseas?.. I was almost at my wits end already and raised my voice at him. I think he was quite dissatisfied with me, but at 4am in the morning, clocking almost 21 hrs with no sleep or rest, that was the last thing on my mind... so I just shrugged off the matter, and disappeared to do the next nurse's bidding.. Hmm... moral of the story: don't piss anybody off at 12 to 6 am in the morning... no one likes to work without enough rest or sleep.. oh, and another thing, pls learn sufficiently enough of the most used language to have a proper conversation in the country you are about to live in. Translators are everywhere at times, but not when you need them urgently. :)

So.. to all, a Very Happy Chinese New Year!! have a very ratty year ahead...

trudge on..

2 comments:

Ivy Chai said...

OMG..sooo funny! esp. the "appapapapa".

You reminded me about my Mandarin too. Guess I need to brush up.

I thought I could survive with some Cantonese, but guess not in all situations :P

Bea said...

jo~~~~ hey nice to see you again after.....how many years....hahaha...

keep blogging, man.....it's kinda like scrubs without the visuals...wahahaha...