Loud and Clear: A Nurse Discovers the Hazards of Learning Spanish By Audio

By Alice Facente, MSN, RN

I was determined to learn to speak Spanish. To deliver truly competent nursing care to my many Spanish-speaking patients, I felt compelled to gain a working knowledge of the Spanish language. I found a four-week course offered at the local community college, entitled “Spanish for the Medical Professional.” Perfect! I enrolled and eagerly went to the first class. My five classmates and I immediately started learning about the parts of the body, numbers, dates, how to ask and tell your address, and how to tell time. It was surprising how much we learned in that first three-hour class.

To reinforce what we had learned the professor instructed us to purchase a pocket medical Spanish guide, as well as the corresponding audio CD, which could be played at home or in the car. I wanted to get started quickly. On the way home from class I dutifully put the CD in my car tape player and repeated the Spanish translation after the English narration.

“Good morning: Buenos días.”

“I am the nurse: Soy la enfermera.”

So far, so good. At this rate, I began to think, I would be fluent in a short time. I listened to the CD every chance I got.

“Do you have a headache? Le duele a usted la cabeza?”

A few days later, I gave a gracious, elderly neighbor a ride home from the grocery store. As she slowly buckled herself in, I turned the key in the ignition. Immediately, the CD asked in loud, clear English, “Does your anus itch?” Before the startled lady answered the question, I quickly turned off the recording and explained that I was learning Spanish.

I should have learned my lesson, but continued to learn through the English–Spanish CD recordings.

“Do you have abdominal pain? Tiene usted dolor de estómago o vientre?”

Instead of listening to music in my car, I continued to study the audio recordings.

A few days later I drove my reserved 79-year-old neighbor to the local pharmacy to pick up his prescriptions. As he buckled his seat belt, the tape asked loud and clear, “Do you have a rash on your penis?”

I now listen to jazz music on my car radio.

Editor’s note: Alice Facente is a clinical educator in Connecticut and has published two Reflections essays in AJN over the past year: “The Dirtiest House in Town” and “At Her Mercy.”

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2016-11-21T13:19:30+00:00 February 10th, 2010|Nursing|1 Comment
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

One Comment

  1. TIffany Hooper February 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I love it!! What a great story and many chuckles it will bring as I pass it along.

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