I’ve been interviewing for a medical interpreter position at a hospital, and so far so good. Vamos a ver. I got some good medical interpreting experience under my belt a few years back when I worked at a clinic for refugees and immigrants, but I was worried that I might be a little rusty. Not to fear–reviewing medical terms this past week was a huge confidence boost for my Spanish as it was very difficult for me to find words I didn’t know/couldn’t translate. Of course, you never know the full extent of what you don’t know, but I’ve nonetheless been giving my Spanish little high fives all week. It’s pretty astounding to think of the sheer amount of words I picked up passively just living in Colombia. I wasn’t even that social! I was a word hound, though, no doubt about it, and that’s why my vocabulary is so broad. I guess I’ll aim for more depth over breadth in this next stretch of the fluency race.
One factor that really helps with medical terminology in Spanish is that there is such an incredible number of cognates. You should never simply guess, of course, but if you were pinned against a wall and absolutely forced to give your best stab at the translation for “cardiomyopathy,” might you venture cardiomiopatía? See what I mean? What about “hemorrhoids”? Hemorroides? Very nice. All right, “pyloric stenosis.” Estenosis pilórica? OK, hold it right there, you little whippersnapper. This is my blog, and I don’t appreciate your cutesy antics cutting into my face time.
There are, sin exagerar, zillions of perfect cognates, but there’s also a fair amount that don’t sound or look anything like their English counterpart. I knew most of them, but there were a few from left field that I never would have come up with even if I’d stood there guessing for a year. And had a patient said any of these words to me, I would have stood there helpless, not understanding ni jota, ni forro, ni papa, (and with a tip of the hat to yesterday’s theme) ni mu. And then they would have been up a creek as well. Would you have a clue?
1. Know how to say jaundice? Neither did I. It’s ictericia.
2. What about ENT? Otorrinolaringólogo. Also shortened to otorrino, gracias a Dios.
3. Could you explain a spleen in Spanish? It’s el bazo.
4. What exactly is la boca del estómago? Our stomachs have mouths? Not quite. Colloquially, that would be the pit of the stomach; in medical contexts, more like the top of your stomach where it connects to the esophagus.
5. Colloquial options for heartburn (acidez)? Agriera, agruras, and vinagrera.
How’d you do? Have you ever done any interpreting? Have you had any lucky guesses on words you weren’t sure about? How about horrible flops? Hopefully it wasn’t a life or death situation!
_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with these words? Had you heard them before? How have you heard them used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?