Je ne parlais pas francais – Setting Goals for July

Greetings in different languages, engraved on stones on a street in Geneva.

Greetings in different languages, engraved on stones on a street in Geneva.

I glanced at her name.

“No English,” she announced. She read my mind.

“Francaise?” I asked.

Oui!” her eyes lit up.

Je suis une infermiere...(I’m a nurse)” I started. “But….Je ne parle pas français. (I don’t speak French)” I explained.

“Oh,” her eyes dimmed in disappointment. “My doctor no call? My blood? My exams? Okay?” she struggled through broken English as she fiddled with her hands in her lap.

I should have used the phone line for interpreting. But I understood her. She was looking for results.

Attend (wait),” I stepped out of the room to look up her chart. After confirming with her PCP that the results were normal, I returned to her room.

Su resultados… (your results)” OOPS. I face palmed my forehead. Since I usually spoke Spanish at work, whenever I attempted to speak French, my words still came out in Spanish. “Uhh…”

Her brows narrowed and her eyes focused on mine.

Argh! I took a year of French and I don’t remember anything! Frustrated, I pulled out my phone and searched for google translate.

Vos résultats…” I attempted a French accent.

Oui?” she sat at the edge of her seat, hope hanging on the utterance of my every word.

“...sont négatifs.” I finished.

She raised her hands up high, palms together in a prayer pose. “Merci mon Dieu (thank God)!” she proclaimed. “Je comprends (I understand),” she grinned the biggest smile.

~ ~ ~

Language is such a vital instrument in establishing a relationship and making a connection with someone, so I try to learn a few words to better connect with my patients. Some days, the language barriers are incredibly challenging, and examples like the one above humble and remind me that I have so much more to learn.

So I’m going to join my friends Esther from Local Adventurer, Hsiao-Ting from Shouting Chow, Mariah from Food, Booze & Baggage, Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages, and Shannon from Eurolinguiste in the “Maximize your Month” linkup.

July’s goals:

1) complete 4 lessons of Basic French on Duolingo – Inspired by Lindsay and Shannon and their crazy language learning skills, I’m going to try to relearn French.

2) blog once a week – can’t be a better writer if I don’t write more often…

3) read two books this month – my new year’s resolution was to read one book a month. I’ve read 4 this year, so I’m a few books behind and need to catch up.

Maximize Your Month

12 thoughts on “Je ne parlais pas francais – Setting Goals for July

  1. Hi Soapie, I’m doing the linkup as well. I know what you mean about language barriers – I work in healthcarel too (as a medical engineer) and communication is so very important and yet often so difficult with the language barrier. I think it’s a great aim to refresh your language skills so that you can help others. Best of luck with it. Maybe one of the two books that you aim to read this month could be based in France to help connect your aims.

    • you’re a medical engineer? i don’t really know that much about medical engineering, could you tell me more about it? what type of setting do you work in and when would you utilize different languages?

      and reading a book based in France is a great idea! thanks for the suggestion, i’ll have to start looking for one!

      • It’s the repairing and maintaining of all of the equipment used in healthcare such as anaesthetic machines, resuscitaires, and ECG machines. The general public don’t think of us when they think of healthcare but we are there, making sure that all the equipment works as it should.

        The languages would come in mainly with our dealings with any clinical staff whose first language isn’t English. When someone tries to explain to us what the problem with a machine is they are often upset or panicking and they can find it hard to find the right words in a language that isn’t their own. I’m not personally good enough at any other languages to be of any real help but I can see the advantage in being able to do so. Like I said, I think it’s a really nice idea to improve your language skills with the aim of helping others instead of just making it easier for you to order wine when on holidays 😉

  2. I can relate to that story – but from the other side! The one time I was in hospital in my life was in Bangkok. I don’t speak Thai! There was one doctor and one nurse who came once a day who spoke English and that was pretty much it. It was really scary!
    Anyway, best of luck with your goals this month – especially the Duolingo…I’m slightly biased! 😉

    • oh wow. getting sick in a foreign country is pretty scary (i know, i got sick when i was in cambodia and it was scary despite the fact that i speak khmer!) but it’s especially scary when no one understands you. i really appreciate hearing your experience from the patient perspective because it helps me remind me how patients feel when they are sick and need help. thanks for sharing this!

      i’ve just begun duolingo and i really enjoy it!

  3. my goals should be blogging more and reading more. both tasks that seem to escape my regular activities lately. shame on me. i shall try harder. thanks for reminding me.

  4. Wow I love this! I have never had high regards for the French language, but reading this made me want to learn French! I’m so glad you were able to communicate with her! You go girl.

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