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What you will learn in this lesson:

  • to greet and introduce yourself to your patient

  • the alphabet and three simple rules for pronunciation

  • to form singular and plural masculine and feminine nouns (persons, places, or things)

  • to form singular and plural forms of the definite article (the) and indefinite articles (a, an, one, some)

  • body parts

  • to ask “What seems to be the problem?”, “What hurts?”, “Where does it hurt?”

  • to say “I need …,” “You need …,” “Do you need …?”, and “What/Where/Why/When do you need to …?”

The goal of this lesson is to be able to greet your patients in a culturally courteous and competent manner, make them feel comfortable, take vital signs, ask what brings them to you (chief complaint), or how they’re progressing if it is a follow-up visit, and what they need to do next and how often.



Buenos días means “Good morning” or “Good day” and generally covers from 6:00 A.M. to noon. Buenas tardes (“Good afternoon”) can vary from country to country. In Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America it covers from noon to perhaps 6:00 or 7:00 P.M.; while in Spain, it can cover up to 9:00 or so. However, from 7 to 9 P.M., one may begin to say Buenas noches, used as “good evening.” (The best indicator is when the sun sets.) Buenas noches means “Good evening” or “Good night” and refers to sundown until perhaps 2:00 A.M. La madrugada, or the “wee morning hours,” refers to the remaining hours until approximately sunrise.

Mucho gusto means “Nice to meet you.” It is customary to shake hands with everyone upon meeting, greeting, and leave-taking. This applies to everyone: two men, two women, a man and a woman, an adult and a child, or all the children present. (And there probably will be many family members and often children present, even at your office.)

One should shake hands with everyone to avoid being seen as extremely rude, cold, and uncaring. An even more kind, caring, and warm gesture is to cup your left hand over the hand you are shaking, which conveys the feeling of trust (confianza). It is a quite comforting action seen from the Latin American point of view, and it tends to communicate the feeling that “You are in good hands now.” It does not transmit the trite or paternalistic attitude that may be interpreted by U.S. Americans. In Spanish-speaking countries, the proximity between people shaking hands is generally much closer than is customary in the United States. Instead of standing the distance of an arm length apart per person, perhaps a forearm length per person would be more appropriate.

Often Latin American family members or close friends accompany one another for ...

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