No Speaka De Anglish?

Pravda** tweaka de anguish in a recent piece. Boldly titled ‘Language Barrier Called Health Hazard in E.R.‘, it starts out with a tragic story of communications gone wrong.

When a Spanish-speaking hospital receptionist refused to interpret during her lunch hour, doctors at St. Vincent’s Staten Island Hospital turned to a 7-year-old child to tell their patient, an injured construction worker, that he needed an emergency amputation.
With no one to bridge the language gap for another patient, a newly pregnant immigrant from Mexico with life-threatening complications, doctors pressed her to sign a consent form in English for emergency surgery. Understanding that the surgery was needed “to save the baby,” the young married woman awoke to learn that the operation had instead left her childless and sterile*.
Those cases were among dozens detailed in a civil rights complaint contending that the lack of basic translation services at St. Vincent’s and three other New York City hospitals endangers their immigrant patients and violates state and federal law.

*Emphasis mine and please to remember the sentence.

Oh my God, sounds bad, eh? There’s a litany of complaints ranging from “Typical were cases like that of a woman who had to rely on her English-speaking Korean cabdriver to translate a doctor’s directions for treating her 11-year-old son”, “the woman who minimized her symptoms of depression because the person translating was her 13-year-old son” to ” overheard doctors at St. Vincent’s telling a construction worker, through his 7-year-old cousin, that the worker needed an amputation.” They use the word pervasive* which sounds awful and implies every second immigrant gets dissed by the system because (drum roll, here) they speak NO English. They do note that hospitals are scrambling to accomodate. While there are more “than 150 tongues are now spoken in New York, nearly all the problems highlighted in the complaint concern Spanish and Korean.” Last I heard, Spanish is pretty easy, but speaking Korean is a bitch. And I wonder about all the advocacy groups. They seem to be out to bang on the system…

Adam Gurvitch, director of health advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition, which coordinated the efforts to document language barriers, called the civil rights complaint a last resort. “We feel like we’ve hit a wall,” he said.

…instead of using their resources. Get some of their staff off their asses and down in the E.R.’s to…well, schmaybe…help out and translate. Or impress upon immigrants to need to learn basic English. When I travel to another country, I wear it as a badge of honor that I’m mangling the native tongue within a day or two. If I moved somewhere I’d sure as hell want to be able to articulate basic medical information. You know. ‘Foot’, ‘Toe’, ‘Finger’ and the all important ‘OW, that f^%king HURTS!’ Whose responsibility is that? The taxpayer is already picking up the tab for your repair at said E.R. (there’s a passage on a mugging victim who “returned for follow-up care a few days later, she was handed a piece of paper stating in English that to be seen by a doctor she had to pay $95 and bring a photo ID. The robbery had left her with neither.” To the latter statement, well duh. That’s why it’s called robbery. To the former, like that wouldn’t happen to uninsured, born-in-the-USA Granny Gertrude Frothingslosh. Get a grip.) And I’m not expecting everyone to wax poetic in adopted languages, far from it. But I do expect them to try and start trying as soon as their damp liddle puddies come in contact with the north side of the Rio Grande or they come down the ramp off a Korean Air 747, or from whereEVER. (Just like my sainted M-I-L, Panamian by birth, American with a vengance, who has no patience with any of her newly arrived Hispanic brethren.) Make an effort, help yourselves, people. You’ll be surprised how big the arms of this country can be when you do.
Now. Remember the histrionic, no more babies introductory paragraph? BURIED at the very end of the article is ‘the rest of the story’.

The woman who was left sterile, who identified herself only as Nayeli, said two emergency operations were performed without adequate translation.
In her first visit to St. Vincent’s, only her brother was available to translate, which made her “ashamed,” she said, to discuss her treatment with doctors. They apparently removed one Fallopian tube after finding that an embryo was growing inside it, a dangerous condition known as an ectopic pregnancy.
Nayeli, who cleans houses, said she was assured after that operation that she and her husband would have no trouble conceiving in the future. But seven months later a new pregnancy, also apparently ectopic, put her back in the operating room, where her second Fallopian tube was removed, leaving her sterile. “Never at any time did I know they were going to remove my tubes,” she said.

Left sterile after two ectopic pregnancies?? We should be outraged about this? She would be dead if they hadn’t operated EITHER time, her now missing tubes having exploded because of the child attempting to grow in that teeny little place not meant for babies. (In N.C. we had a little girl of 18 die in the Camp LeJeune hospital after a mis-diagnosed ectopic pregnancy. The condition mimics everything from intestinal distress to ulcers. Everything but what it is and they don’t find out until they get in there.) Although the lead-in was meant to incite indignation and empathy, the underhandedness of the article’s machinations just pegged my sympathy meter.
*to become diffused throughout every part of
**Read the whole thing here, ’cause I waited too long and am too cheap to pay them.

13 Responses to “No Speaka De Anglish?”

  1. John says:

    One of my most cherished possessions is the German-English Dictionary of my great-grandfather. I, too, have no patience for immigrants too stuck in their own culture to learn English. My wife (1st generation immigrant, came here at age 11) has even less – she gets on people who have been here for years and still have a thick accent. Me, I’m happy they can communicate in English at all.
    I wouldn’t say Korean or Japanese are a bitch to learn to speak. To write, maybe. Tonal languages are infinitely worse for us Indo-European speakers to master. But the issue here is that Asian tongues, tonal or not, are not languages that Americasn are apt to have brushed up against in high school, so there is even more onus on their speakers to learn English here.

  2. Major Dad Momma still has an utterly charming accent, having come to the States as a mother of 3 in the early sixties (and in that era Indiana there were still lotsa white sheets, so you can imagine how friendly they all were…). Major Dad and I laugh about our marriage lic ~ Places of Birth: Iwakuni, Japan & Gamboa, Panama. Talk about immigrants! Anyway, she is absolutely incensed that her church has Spanish Masses now.
    One of the reasons Ebola was always in private school while we lived in CA wasn’t anything to do w/ religion. It was because the Santa Ana school system had only enough books for every third student and each and every class had to be taught in English first and retaught, during the second half, in Spanish. Something that grew out of a law (Mr. Summers can correct me here) at the time. It mandated that teachers be fluent in the predominant language of the citzens of the neighborhood and gave them X amount of years to prove fluency. In it’s madness, it cost the job of a sweet little old lady of 60+ years who’d taught forever in San Francisco. She’d the misfortune of being in a district where Mandarin was the predominant language spoken, didn’t pick it up w/i the alloted time frame and they sacked her.
    We were also there in time to see all the road signs in Garden Grove give way from English to Vietnamese, an exit sign erected on I-5 that said ‘Little Saigon’ vice Garden Grove, the no-smoking, fire exit etc. signs in the classrooms at Santa Ana Com. College were all in Vietnamese and so on. Wild watching it happen.
    Bumper stickers began to sprout like mushrooms that said “Would the last American leaving Garden Grove please take the flag”.

  3. Burlyman says:

    I too get pretty bent out of shape when i go to a discount store and all most of the patrons speak is Spanish. I live in a, somewhat, agricultural area, so we have a lot of illegals here. Besides the language barrier, most of them are rude also. They let their children run loose, and they (parents) just bust thru when there is a crowd. I saw one Mexican couple blast thru a particularly busy isle, and they nearly knocked down a litte old lady and her grandson.
    As you can tell, I am very anti-illegal for several reason. Of them are as Michael Savage says… “Borders, Language, Culture” We are losing them all.

  4. Mr. Bingley says:

    Previous waves of immigrants had to assimilate,, becasue resistance was futile. Now we are required to bend over backwards to accomodate. Now I’m certainly no jackbooted Buchanan/Bukharin-ite; hell, I think that legal immigration is a good thing, but we simply must control our borders and require people to assimilate into our culture in their lives outside the home, which means learn freakin’ english first off.

  5. Ken Summers says:

    Sis, it’s not a state law as far as I know, probably a local board policy, and I haven’t seen it happen around here. What HAS happened locally is that kids with hispanic surnames who speak absolutely no Spanish have gotten automatically shoved into bilingual classes until their parents were finally able to scream loud enough about it.
    We’ve since (supposedly) gotten rid of bilingual education in favor of English immersion, but the reactionaries keep trying to scuttle that despite overwhelming evidence that immersion works. And the Balkinization continues.

  6. I think that legal immigration is a good thing
    As do I, most firmly. I also firmly believe that when someone is willing to jump through all the hoops required, they really want to be here and be a part of all that is American, red, white, green, orange, purple, black, brown, whatever and whoever. And any American who turns his nose up at legal immigration is fooling himself. Somewhere in all our bloodlines is that first relative who got off a boat in an American port.
    It was in the early 80’s, Mr. Summers. Double checked with Major Dad for the date, but you might well be right about it being a SF Board dec., vice a ‘law’. (Yesterday is fuzzy less mind 25 yrs ago…) It was a huge story at the time. I’m glad to hear bilingual has (almost) gone its worthless way. What’s been the damage though? Is there a lost generation or two who will never be part of the general fabric of American life?

  7. Ken Summers says:

    Lost generation? I hope not but I fear so…

  8. Nightfly says:

    They’re going to have troubles, and spread them around liberally (pun intentional). At first the bilingual thing was just folk tryin’ to be nice to the new families; now it almost seems like spite.
    I’m growing certain that a part of the elite simply hate America for it’s tradition of merit-based advancement and egalitarianism. I hear a lot of lip service paid to everybody needing an equal opportunity, but at heart I don’t think some people believe it, because they insist on giving driver’s tests and government documents in foreign languages (which assumes immigrants can’t learn), and insist on mass amnesties for illegals (which assumes ‘jobs Americans won’t do,’ a concept insulting to both groups). An exhaustive list of all such policies would crash your bandwith.
    Of course the policies don’t really work – they limit rather than expand opportunity, and create social rifts that are then conveniently explained as “racism” and “discrimination.” I agree – so why are they doing it?

  9. You know, one little thing that pisses me off continuously is calling the 1-800 number for United States Postal Service tracking and being told, first thing, to ‘continue in English, please press 1’.
    Oh, bite ME!
    It should be ‘for a menu of language choices OTHER THAN ENGLISH, please press numero uno, ?1, ? ?, numéro un or whatever the flock kinda language you’re speaking at the moment.
    Just bugs the shit out of me.

  10. Mr. Bingley says:

    Xenophobic hussy.

  11. I never thought I looked much like Xena. I’m more a SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER type.

  12. Ken Summers says:

    She-ra? That is so hot…

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