Setting up Medical English Conversation Course

Firstly some background: last year I suffered a serious accident in Taipei and was treated at Tai Da Hospital for several weeks, one full week of which was spent in the intensive care unit. My Chinese was minimal and I soon discovered that many of the doctors-in-training/interns I came into contact with were not quite as proficient in using English as one might perhaps imagine, particularly for the top hospital and university in the country. Aside from the emergency medical technicians, the language barrier didn’t not pose a significant problem in terms of treatment, and the overall care provided at the hospital was quite satisfactory. I maintain a relationship with my doctor and some of the staff and students to this day.

Recently, my doctor, on his own initiative, has expressed interest in setting up a practical English conversation course for medical students working within the hospital and has asked whether I could help structure and arrange a program. We’re considering offering twice weekly sessions for around 90 minutes each, providing practical experience in utilizing spoken English in a variety of situations within their professional fields. The sessions would take place at the university hospital. For those who might not know, 100% of the text books used in medical school in Taiwan are in English, while nearly 100% of the lectures are in Chinese - a clean and even separation of the languages into two contexts, seldom intercrossed. Comprehension levels are typically very high and tend to outpace speaking ability by a good measure.

I would like to move this ahead although my time and energy might not permit extensive involvement. I’m bringing this to the attention of forum members and those native speakers already engaged in teaching or with teaching experience, to simply collect responses and get a sense of interest in participating, and also hear comments and suggestions about any aspect of this.

I used to tutor nurses and doctors in Spanish, giving them a few key phrases and supplemental vocabulary and reading (lots of English-Spanish cognates in pop medical science reports). The issue with them is that they weren’t stable clients, as they had rotating twenty-four hour shifts or the like, and they were usually too bogged down with research to ever take a few minutes, much less a full hour or two per week, to meet or review a language.

Have the medical textbooks taught them terms that laypeople can’t understand (e.g. “glenohumeral joint” vs. “shoulder joint”), or do they know all of the laypeople’s terminology, too, but just don’t have many opportunities to use them?

That’s certainly an issue - not having had a chance to practice using the lay terms. Observing how thoroughly overwhelmed most med students are here, I have to wonder whether med school in Taiwan places even more demands on them than in the US or Europe. I fully expect there would be little or no review of lessons on their own, practically impossible with their schedules. The sessions would be just come-as-you-are with what you know, and have a chance to practice speaking, doing re-enactments or rehearsing scenarios.

Hi I have worked since 1998 as a radiographer, I also lectured at LSBU and Kingston University, teaching radiographers, physiotherapists and nurses. I also helped in the training of the Multi National Defence Force Hospital staff in Bosnia as well as training students in Australia. I would be very interested in this project.