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Medical English – An Emergency Room Experience

emergencyOne of the beauties of teaching adults English is that they are more than students. ESOL students are wives, fathers, business professionals, and hospital workers. So unlike their youthful counterparts, adult ESOL learners need to learn English for a variety of contexts, including work. I vividly experienced an ESOL learners’ work context this week: the hospital.

What I thought was a little stomach ache turned out to be appendicitis.  Suddenly, I was being rushed into an operating room and having my appendix removed. Before I got cut open, I learned a little bit about how hospitals work and about the profession of hospital transportation. Most of the hospital transportation people that I met were intermediate English language learners. They graciously pushed me around the hospital. Literally. There job, as far as I could tell, was to push people’s beds from one location to another.

I was so delighted by their conversation skills and medical knowledge. They were so comforting: “Don’t worry the CT scan won’t hurt.”  And so polite: “May I take that cup from you?” The ESOL Hospital Transportation staff were so well versed in how to take care of a patient and the English vocabulary you need to do so.

And it got me thinking about their language acquisition. How had they learned the medical terminology? Was it on the job training? An English class? If it was a general ESL class that helped them, I bet they really paid attention to the polite forms of speech. As a teacher, I know, I don’t really pay that much attention to my students’ work life. But I am going to start bringing in readings from occupational contexts and making a point to link class learning objectives to work. All of my students work, so it seems stupid that I wasn’t integrating their work life into class. In most cases, to be successful at work they are going to need specific English skills. I want to help give them that knowledge so that they can become the knowledgable, polite, professional, and friendly English language learners that helped me at the hospital.

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One Response to “Medical English – An Emergency Room Experience”

  1. New Years Teaching Resolutions | English, baby! Blog Says:

    […] exactly new. I talk about using technology all the time and I have mentioned integrating students’ careers into the classroom. Still, this is my list. My list of resolutions. Keep checking back as I work on each of these […]

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