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Case 3: Multilingual classes for health professionals

In this video, specialists in health and health education talk about their experience of working with multilingual groups of students and trainees.
I think at one level it’s not a problem because we deliver all our education through the English language and it’s to the credit of our international students and international colleagues that they have learned English alongside their first languages whatever they may be and can understand generally things very very well so I think it’s our own inadequacy and it’s to the benefit of our colleagues and students to have another language.
So at one level it’s not too much of an issue and however there are times many times when you feel that you cannot express yourself adequately without knowing their language so to take Welsh for an example I know from my own experiences even in my own family where we have Welsh-speaking and my Welsh speaking niece for example when she was studying biology she was unable to to know what the Welsh words were for English was sometimes aren’t those terms then I guess this is the same thing it occurs if you extend that to medicine so sometimes it’s quite hard to articulate meanings of things to students who don’t necessarily have the language to describe what you’re trying to describe and not being a speaker of their first language it leaves you with a difficult situation and I think then they rely on their peers to explain and their friendship groups and peer groups to unpack that whereas sometimes you wish you could do it as their as a teacher.
We were talking earlier about how that can also be slightly misleading or frustrating at times Certainly with radiotherapy there are some very technical terms which I can’t imagine would translate but they must do to a certain extent and even describing concepts can be very difficult in a language that isn’t their first language so I find in the class that they start to break out into small groups of experts of trying to explain to each other until I came to understand that perhaps in my lecture they need to stop and give them time to do that I found it quite difficult to manage the noise that was going on and thought that they weren’t really paying attention but then after a little bit of confrontation a few times they said no no we’re actually trying to explain to each other what you’re saying in a way that it’s easier for us to understand so I started to appreciate that

In this video you will hear two specialists in health and health education talk about their experience of working with multilingual groups of students and trainees.

They focus on their own sense of linguistic inadequacy, because they cannot speak the language of their students. And they stress the need to create a space in which language can be used effectively even though imperfectly.

In this sense the language classroom becomes a negotiating space – and also an ‘unruly’ space, where the tutor has to relinquish control and let the students deal with difficulties by cooperating and offering peer translation to each other.

The need for translation and the inability of the teacher to deal with all issues via the medium of English leads to a radical change in the relationship of power within the classroom.

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Working with Translation: Theory and Practice

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