You might think asking why to want to learn Spanish is something of a strange one, but communicating with the locals is just one reason. You may want to take an exam in Spanish, or you may feel that as you live here it is the right thing to do, but whatever your reason for wanting to learn the language, you need to let your teacher know your reasons because the way you are taught will vary according to your needs. For example, if you are studying the language for an exam, then the grammar becomes very important, but if you want to just speak the language, then the word order and vocabulary could be more relevant. A good teacher will help you learn and improve all aspects of your learning with a structured lesson plan, but if you decide to do it yourself what are your options?

I taught myself to speak Spanish and it was a long road, and I would definitely recommend classes not least for any doubts you may have but also to lead you through the Spanish minefield. For self-learning you need a good Spanish book, and I always recommend a good verb book with exercises you can complete as you go along, as verbs are the nightmare part of learning the lingo. For pronunciation you need to listen to Spanish as much as possible, whether in ´real life´ or on the television or radio. Listening to a language helps with understanding and how to say the words, since if you know the words but are pronouncing them badly at best, you won´t be understood and at worst you may be saying the complete opposite of what you want to say!

I don´t translate very often as I am busy with my classes and my son, so don´t really have time, but I was needed recently for a friend who had to go to hospital. This sort of translating is always a bit daunting for a non-native speaker as there may be technical terms that are difficult to understand, but with proper planning there is no reason why someone with an intermediate level of Spanish can´t do it. It takes confidence and a willingness to ask for repetitions, but once you get over the first time it becomes easier. I remember the first few times I translated several years ago, and it was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life. But I did it and I got more and more confident. So what sort of things do you need to do if you have a medium level of Spanish and want to take the leap of seeing a medical professional without a translator?

The first thing you need to know is why you are going, what is the problem? Then you can do some prior research and look up some words or phrases. The first thing to remember when you enter the office whether it´s a doctor or specialist, is that you are going to use the ´usted´ form of the verb, we speak to medical people with respect and so this is appropriate in this situation. I hope you remember the ´usted´ form is the same as the él and ella conjugation. As you enter the room you will say ´buenos días´ or ´buenas tardes´ depending on the time of day, smile at the doctor and that will hopefully calm you down as well as appearing friendly and not as nervous as you may be feeling.

The doctor will ask what´s wrong or how they can help saying something along the lines of ´¿cuál es el problema?´ (what is the problem?) or ´¿qué le pasa?´ (What´s wrong?). Then it´s your turn, and do keep your sentences short and to the point and just say something like ´le duele el tobillo´ or wherever they have pain. Remember if it´s you that is in pain, you use ´me duele…´ the doctor will then maybe take blood pressure, (la presión arterial) they should have a list of the medication that the person is taking however they may still ask, ´¿toma alguna medicina?´ and if they have any allergies ´¿tiene alguna alergia?´

Once you go for your first doctor´s or hospital appointment and then begin to help others you will get more confidence as you learn more vocabulary, and realise that you understand more than you thought. Next week I’ll feature some basic and more advanced vocabulary to use in medical visits. 


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