News | 31.08.2010

Foreign nurses get language lessons in local dialects

As any language learner will tell you, idiomatic phrases are extremely difficult to master and to use in the correct context. And for translators, cultural transposition is often the only way forward as these phrases do not directly translate. In a bid to overcome this language barrier and improve patient care, a hospital in Norfolk is offering foreign nurses the chance to attend language classes about local dialects.

On 31 August 2010, the Guardian reported on this initiative and listed some of the phrases that have come up including, ‘pins and needles’ and ‘feeling under the weather’. It was stressed that the nurses attending the course have excellent skills in English, but need a few pointers when it comes to this particular aspect of the English language. It is hoped that these classes will avoid the situation whereby a patient was escorted to the shop, rather than to a toilet, to ‘spend a penny’.

Classes consist of an induction course and follow-up sessions where staff can discuss any other phrases that they have picked up on the wards and deal with “‘dialect, idiom and colloquialism, covering phrases such as ‘spick and span’, higgledy-piggledy’” and ‘tickled pink’.*

This topic also made an appearance in the Telegraph when it was reported how social media networks have been responsible for a UK-wide revival in regional dialects. It details that the speed of communication on these sites is such that people are ‘more likely to lapse into colloquialisms’, which in turn means higher visibility of these phrases on the Internet and therefore increases the speed at which they are picked up outside of the local community. Language is a constantly changing entity, but with the advent of social media sites such as Twitter and FaceBook, these dialects are spreading at a much higher rate than before.

Some interesting phrases listed in the article from the Independent include ‘dreckly’ meaning ‘directly’ (Cornwall); ‘scran’ meaning ‘food’ (Liverpool); ‘mardy’ meaning ‘moody’ (Manchester); ‘cob’ meaning ‘bread roll’ (Midlands) and ‘taraabit’ meaning ‘goodbye’ (Birmingham).

These idiomatic expressions and words from regional dialects often pose a barrier to fully understanding any foreign language. Directly tackling this problem by offering professional language courses is a step forward for the NHS in a bid to improve service users’ care. Providing linguistic information that may not usually be found in a dictionary, but which is certain to come up in everyday life is certainly a top notch initiative. Mint!

* (August 31 2010)

Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph

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