The ability to communicate with other people is integral in everyday life and its importance is even more evident in practicing medicine. Many people have had the experience of being unable to communicate with a patient because they speak a different language. Not only is it challenging for the patient to express symptoms of a disease and its treatment, but also it is difficult for the physician to truly understand what the patient is going through. The cultural aspects of the illness are often difficult for the patient to express and the physician to understand.

Within this section, students discuss their own experiences and share some suggestions for improving communication between the doctor and the non-English speaking patient.

Recommended ResourcesEdit

In responding to various discussions, these resources were found to be useful regarding communication.


In regards to exploring a patient's cultural understanding of an illness, Anne Fadiman's book refers to eight questions that can be helpful. Check out the link:


An interesting text that pertains to this area of communicating through cultural differences is: Fadiman, Anne (1997). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It is available in the library.

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