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This book is an illustrated medical Spanish text-workbook specifically geared to healthcare professionals, in particular, Physicians, Physicians’ Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses (including NPs, LVNs, LPNs, MAs), medical assistants, lab technicians, and ancillary medical staff.

The book is composed of fifteen chapters or lessons. Each chapter introduces grammar concepts (often referred to as “structures,” which somehow sounds less threatening), vocabulary, and dialogues that attempt to follow the order in which your patient visit takes place. For example, you will learn to greet a patient, take vital signs, interview him or her, find out the chief complaint, review the medical history, give a physical exam, and then recommend prescription or follow-up instructions. Vocabulary and dialogues for various lab tests are also included. Many significant cultural aspects are also interspersed throughout each chapter, culminating with the last lesson that focuses on “Cultural competency and Cross-cultural communication.”

Each chapter follows a logical progression and introduces vocabulary by means of pictures that are generally related to a single topic. The initial vocabulary section of each chapter is followed by related exercises, dialogues, and/or crossword puzzles. Grammar concepts are explained in a simple, clear, and concise manner. Although grammar, per se, is not stressed, it is reinforced by constant repetition—the very manner in which we learned our native tongue as children.

The purpose of the illustrations and the suggested method of instruction is to encourage you to avoid translating from Spanish to English and vice versa. Instead, you are encouraged to relate the image or concept directly with the appropriate Spanish word, thus eliminating an entire and irrelevant translation step.

The dialogues are based on vocabulary that has already been presented, so you are familiarized with nearly all the words and phrases that will be encountered in each dialogue. Obviously, the purpose of this book is to teach you to communicate with your Spanish-speaking patients in order to form strong clinician-patient rapport. You will be learning a standardized universal Spanish that also includes many words and expressions that take on different meanings in different countries and regions. Your Latino patients will come from a variety of countries, education levels, socioeconomic backgrounds, and origins (whether urban or rural). Some may be from indigenous groups for whom Spanish is also a second language. The point is that their Spanish accents, some vocabulary, expressions, and cultural traits will differ; yet you will be able to understand the essential, salient aspects of what they express. Just think of the variations that exist in English; nevertheless, you probably understand someone from England, Australia, New Zealand, the southern United States, or New York.

If anything, the Spanish text is weighted slightly toward expressions used in Mexico. This is in large part a reflection of the fact that the majority of the healthcare professionals who have studied in the authors’ programs and workshops treat more Spanish-speaking-only patients of Mexican origin than those from any other region. Nevertheless, many expressions from Central America, the Caribbean, and some parts of South America are also included.

It is important to remember that if you smile and say as much as you can in Spanish—even if it is only introducing yourself—most of your Spanish-speaking patients will be relieved and impressed that you are attempting to learn and use their language. Don’t worry too much about your accent—your patients will understand, and the more you listen to the accompanying recordings, the more you will improve. Just go for it, and, when necessary, ask for their help. You will find that by remembering just a handful of very basic structures, combined with some of the many cognates (words in Spanish that are similar to words in English) that exist in the medical field, you will surprise yourself with your ability to converse satisfactorily. Above all, keep in mind: do not translate literally, and keep it simple.

Please note: medicine changes so rapidly that what is an accepted word or concept today may not be so tomorrow. Therefore, while we have changed VD to STDs and now to STIs, please make allowances for other examples of new usage that develop once this book is published. (And, by the way, in Spanish it is still called enfermedades venéreas!)

We have tried to be as medically correct as possible, and although we have chosen only a few medical dialogues from certain fields, the conversations offer an example of how to use sentence structure and the “power verb concept.” The point of this text-workbook is not to include dialogues of every field for you to memorize, but to teach the basic sentence structures needed to form your own dialogues to suit your own specific needs. If you learn the basic structures, you will be able to fill in the sentences with any word from your specialized area. If a word, dialogue, or concept related to your specific field is not mentioned or used, simply learn to use the sentence structure (in the simplest form) and add your specialized term. In this way, you will learn how to say whatever you need to and to understand why something is stated as it is in Spanish. This takes you beyond just memorizing and allows you to form your own thoughts in Spanish in order to best communicate with your Spanish-speaking-only patients. Remember to “keep it simple.” And don’t be afraid to use a dictionary. It’s a great invention—and it works!

How to use this course

  1. As this is a self-study course, we strongly suggest you start working through the text from the beginning, one section at a time. Don’t take things too fast, only to discover that you have not fully assimilated the material. The grammatical structures on which conversational Spanish is based are introduced gradually and are immediately placed in contexts that are relevant to healthcare professionals and applicable to common doctor-patient exchanges.

  2. Be sure to complete the exercises. You will notice that the exercises within each section generally become progressively more challenging, starting with a basic reinforcement of the grammar concepts and progressing to exercises that require more challenging cognitive thinking. You may check your answers with the suggested responses in the Answer Key at the back of the book. For easy reference, a verb table is also provided in Appendix A, listing the different verb tense endings and conjugations.

  3. Vocabulary lists are there to be learned. You should be accustomed to memorizing and assimilating vast quantities of information. (How else were you able to succeed during “med school” or any medically related field of training?) The vocabulary that is presented has been carefully selected to correspond to common healthcare-related conversations; where longer or more technical vocabulary lists are provided, you may be more selective and ignore terms that are not relevant to your specific field.

  4. When you arrive at a dialogue in the text, having first memorized the vocabulary, read it as many times as you feel you need. Then listen to the dialogue on the recording while reading along in the book simultaneously. The first few times, just attempt to obtain the general idea of the dialogue. Do not focus on each separate word (just as you don’t concentrate on every word uttered by a radio announcer when listening to a radio station in English); rather, try to “catch” the key phrases.

    Repeat words and phrases aloud as much as possible to reinforce the structures and to mimic the accent and intonation. Subsequently, just listen to the dialogue on the recording. As important as studying the healthcare provider’s role, however, is listening carefully to the patient’s part in the dialogues. This will train you to understand what your patient is attempting to communicate to you. To help you achieve this goal, a variety of accents and intonations are included on the recordings.

    If a particular dialogue has driven you crazy and you simply must know what it means in English, you may turn to Appendix B, which contains English translations of all the dialogues and monologues. However, we hope that you use the translations only as a last resort.

  5. Remember, you can reread sections in the book and replay the recordings as often as you need. Even if it is only for five or ten minutes, regular review will help consolidate your grasp of medical Spanish and boost your confidence. You will then realize how much Spanish you have retained and now understand.

  6. Don’t be shy! Use the Spanish that you have learned whenever the opportunity presents itself. The more you use it, the more comfortable and natural it will seem. And the more you will build your rapport with your Latino patients.

    Good luck!

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