Found in Translation: MDs Get Foreign-Language Phrasebooks

Development of multilingual medical phrasebooks to assist treatment of non-english-speaking persons

In 1999, Harvard Medical School developed three multilingual phrasebooks (in Creole, Spanish, and Cantonese) to enable doctors, medical residents, and nurses to communicate better with patients who do not speak English.

Key Results

The material for each phrasebook is organized under headings and subheadings appropriate for the intended use and tabbed for quick access.

Three series have been developed—Creole, Spanish, and Cantonese (languages common to the residents of neighborhoods near Harvard teaching hospitals).

They were undergoing trials in a variety of settings (including Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Beth-Israel-Deaconess Hospital, as well as hospitals in other parts of the country) when this report was written in 2000.