You speak what?

06/04/2010 at 5:05 AM Leave a comment

I saw an older Indian patient yesterday. He is always brought in by his english speaking son who is very pleasant and patient (with his father, not me) His father has warmed up to me in the past four or five years and doesn’t scowl all the time. It is hard for either one of us to get any good information out of him. The office visits are therefore somewhat strained as the son tells me bits and pieces of what he complained about to various family members over the past few weeks. This older Indian man is so stoic I am not sure I would even be able to tell if he was in any discomfort.

During this last visit I started talking to the son about which language they spoke (Hindi) and the languages in India (most languages of any country in the world). It turns out that there is a local (State) language, the national language (Hindi) and then english. So  most everyone that goes to school has three languages by the time they are in high school and perhaps one or two more if they are so inclined.

I was shocked to hear that my patient also knew Greek!  Greek? My face showing significant incredulity. Not quite what I would have expected. He said it was a random thing, a relic of having lived/worked there at some point. (This man has learned three different alphabets, three non related languages––makes my  English/Spanish/ touch of German  seem quaint by comparison)He did mention that when he first came over to the states, he applied to a greek company for work. His English was serviceable but they were worried about it and asked him how well he could speak. He mentioned that he could speak well but by the way, he also spoke Greek.

This stopped his interviewer cold and his face showed clear doubt about this so they proceeded to finish the conversation in Greek and he promptly got the job. They had never considered the posibility of finding anyone who could speak their language much less an Indian man.

My job is enriched immensely  by getting these vignettes from patients.

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Entry filed under: true story.

But why would someone do that? My book is at Amazon!

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