Nowadays, it’s customary (and sometimes required) to take a foreign language starting as early as middle school. I remember back in the day, my pre-med friends who attended private high schools would take Latin to have an “edge” in understanding the language of medicine. Living in Houston, I did what I felt was logical and took four years of Spanish instead. Come to find out, this may have been one of the best decisions I made in grade school.
While learning Latin roots may help one better comprehend certain words in classical logic, human anatomy, and the English language, its utility in medicine (especially in the Texas Medical Center) comes no where close to Spanish.
With the booming Hispanic population, it’s so much more rewarding to know what a Spanish-speaking patient is saying without having to use a translator. At the same time, as a patient, I’m sure it’s comforting to know that one’s history is being given directly to the physician rather than through a mediator.
Many years have passed since I last took a Spanish course, but I remember enough to be conversational and am getting more attuned to using the language in everyday history taking. Most of my patients have been surprised and very appreciative for my attempts at using Spanish to communicate. A lot of the time, hand gestures will bail me out too. 😆
So in short, if you’re looking to take on a new language to help with your future medical career, aprenda español! (learn Spanish!)