Understanding Your Health in Another Language
Medical jargon can sound like a foreign language at the best of times, but imagine if your doctor was talking to you in a language other than the one you speak!
It’s not just being unsure of your condition and how it will affect you, it’s also being able to understand your options and making informed decisions about your treatment. How can you give consent for surgery or treatment if you haven’t fully understood the risks?
The good news is that there are so many services available to help. A lot of medical brochures and procedure instructions can be accessed in a range of different languages, there are phone interpreter services and even translation apps available on your phone. Some hospitals even have translation services on-site.
5 translation services you can access from your phone
Australian Interpreting Service: This website provides information and access to translation and interpreting services you can book. They can also be contacted on +613 8838 2983.
- Translating and Interpreting Service: This website is an official Australian Government service that has support and information for non-English speakers, and allows you to book an interpreter for help in person or over the phone. You can also call them on 1800 131 450.
- Google Translate App: This app is free, it translates between over 100 languages and even translates 59 languages while offline. This app is really versatile as you can translate speech, text, and even use your camera to translate signs. You can hand write instead of using the keyboard for 93 languages and even save phrases you might want to reference again.
- Microsoft Translator App: This one is similar to google translate in the amount of languages you can access offline and some of the features, but it boats a few extra features such as multi-person conversation translation, where you can connect devices and have in-person conversations with up to 100 people across multiple languages. It allows you to look up alternate translations and meanings to find the best translation to express yourself, and has pronunciation guides to pronounce the translation (this includes Pinyin support for Chinese). It also allows you to translate text in other apps through context menu translation.
- Dr Patti Medical Translations App: This app isn’t free but is designed especially for medical translation. The app translates the most common medical phrases and questions, and comes with voice over so you can play them. They layout of the app makes it easier to find what you’re looking for by having a search function and categories for specific uses. If you’ll need to chat about the same symptoms or treatments more than once you can save the phrases to your own favourites list for easy future reference.
These, and many other services are great to have access to, they make understanding your diagnosis and treatment options much easier. It also helps to understand the admission paperwork, your health fund entitlement and costs, and your procedure instructions.
So, what’s better than a translator in your pocket? Having a translator working at your local hospital! At Epworth Eastern they have a Chinese speaking concierge, who can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin, which is really handy for the 11,000 Mandarin speaking residents in the surrounding suburb! They also have a number of Mandarin speaking doctors and specialists who can help you with language and cultural specific services. If you're lucky enough to be in the area, you can find the details of their services here.
For twenty-three years I’ve been an inpatient in hospital roughly a billion times- (okay, probably a million) but for the sake of my credibility in writing this let’s go with a billion. I’ve definitely determined a favourite vein for blood tests, I’ve memorised the exact tea/coffee/meal schedules, and semi shamefully/semi proudly I admit I’ve mastered the balancing act of rolling my orange-juice-topped IV machine back to bed after visiting the patient kitchenette snack drawer. There is a plethora of things you’ll learn about, yet no one tells you about being in hospital.
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