Monday, April 21, 2008

Nurse Follies: Nyet Habla Ni-hon go!

I've always harbored a secret crush on foreign languages. English seems crude while some languages have a fluid movement that just rolls off the tongue like that Dupre whore blowing Client #9.

In high school, I spent a year studying Japanese. I learned a lot of it, and retained most of it. The only time that actually using it presented itself was a Japanese patient. Excited that I could talk to her, my excitement was short-lived as the patient had Alzheimer's, and what she spoke was neither Japanese nor English. In fact, her own kids didn't even know what it was.

My next language crush was Russian. I looked into taking some classes, picked up a couple books and tapes and would listen to them in my car as I was driving to and from work. Because Kansas City has a large Russian population, I've taken care of a couple Russian speakers, and was able to communicate on a very basic level until the real interpreter arrived...without having to pull out the picture charts.

As a nurse, the most practical second language choice would Spanish. However, I don't want to learn Spanish. Why? Because it's almost expected. It pisses me off when I get a patient who has been in the country 10+ years, and doesn't speak a lick of English, and then they get pissed off because I don't know Spanish. Fuck you, compadre! At least with the Russian and Japanese patients, they are just happy that some loud American is trying to learn their language.

Despite my love of foreign languages (Spanish and French notwithstanding), I do cringe when we get the confused ones. You can't reason with a confused patient, and it's impossible when they are nuttier than squirrel shit.

Recently, we played host to a confused Russian speaking patient who, for whatever reason, wanted to climb out of bed. Because of their condition, this was a big no-no. After 20 or so sprints to their room to put them back into bed, we were all pretty frustrated. Our only translator was someone we had to call on the phone, and the doctor's only solution was to call the translator.

At the end of the morning, Roosky decides to make another break for it. I haul ass into the room to see arms and legs everywhere, as Roosky has decided to fight. Now, I haven't retained very much of the Russian I have learned, so it surprised me even then when I blurted out, "Sit down now!" in the language of Mother Russia. As an afterthought, I added, "Please!"

I know that is what I said, because at that moment, that was the only phrase I remembered...and I checked on the internet later to make sure I didn't tell the patient he looked like RuPaul.

And it worked. The patient sat on the bed, and proceeded to give me the glare of death.

So, it looks like I will look at taking those classes again. I'm bored anyway and need a challenge.

Until then, I'll just go back to the picture charts.


Nuke said...

Nice job there with your patient! I hope you enjoy your classes/books/what have you.

I habla some Spanish, my brother quite a bit more. It always freaks a native speaker out when one of us reacts to what they are saying (we are big pale Nordic types). The best example was a t a Chinese buffet when one of the Latino gentlemen at the big table pointed to my best friends wife and said something (In Spanish) about the hot blond bitch. When he realized I understood he got 6 kinds of flustered and shut right the hell up.

That said, I wanna learn Japanese, Italian, or Danish next.

bobbie said...

LOL!! And I know EXACTLY what you mean about the Hispanic non-English speakers... one had been here for 40 (yes, 40!!!) and only knew please & thank you. Grrrrrrrrrrr...
Reason # 397285 why nurses age more quickly than the rest of the population!!

IDigSmartLadies said...

Learning languages is fun. I learned that back in seventh grade when I moved from French for 2-6 to Latin. I did Latin from seventh through eleventh. Since then, I've taken up moderate Spanish, some German, a little Japanese, and even less Mandarin.

I stumbled into one of those evil pirate torrent sites, and came across 12.7 gigs of Pimsleur language courses. Whether I want to work on Haitian Creole, Hebrew, or Hindi, I've got it covered.

Melinda said...

I think learning most languages is fun, and I heartily second not wanting to learn Spanish or French...don't know why, but they never interested me. German was great, as was learning some Italian for my trip a few years ago-it came in handy when asking for directions to our hotel when the map stopped working! However, I hit a wall when attempting Bosnian. I could just get the rudimentary phrases down. Good luck and congrats for furthering your brain!

Keith Sader said...

Awesome, although I do have to say it's pronounced FRANCH, not French. Didn't you ever see _Better Off Dead_?

OTOH, I've always been attracted to dead languages like French, Old English, and Maya. With the recent decoding of Maya Steelea(sp?), that language has come alive again.

meesha.v said...

russians in new york act like this too, you can live your whole life there and not speak a word of english. they expect everyone to speak russian, and most of the time they find someone who does.

bobbie said...

Nursey post up on the blog... I think you'll be able to relate...

Monique said...

To add to the worsening I-must-live-in-america-but-refuse-to speak-english issue...the UMKC school of nursing now requires all its students to take "Medical Spanish." It's an actual course, folks. I shit you not.