Feeling sick is always a drag, isn't it?
It gets even worse when you realize you need to see a doctor.
Now imagine this, you are in a foreign country and you feel terrible. You know you need medical attention, and that's when you become aware of the fact that your whole conversation with the doctor will be in another language. You'll need to describe symptoms and how you feel in general.
Communicating with a doctor in a foreign language can be frustrating, and this is why our students need to be ready. In this scenario, things can only get worse if they aren't prepared.
Parts of the body
In any kind of medical situation it is essential to know where everything is first. You should teach your students the parts of the body so they can clearly express where the discomfort is. To do this, you can work with an illustration of a human body and have them repeat as you go along. Another option is to point to parts of the body and have them tell you what they are.
Prepare Your Students To See a Doctor in a Foreign Country Painlessly
What's the Problem?
When anyone arrives at a doctor's office, the first thing the doctor is going to want to know is what is ailing that person, in other words, why that person has taken the trouble to go to their office. Your students should learn what questions they will be asked and what they should answer.
Here is a list of useful questions that can help you prepare them.
- What brings you here?
- What is bothering you?
- What seem to be the problem?
- How can I help you?
Now come the answers. Here they will need to give accurate descriptions of symptoms and where they are located on the body.Take a look at some typical ailments and the expressions used to talk about them below.
- I have a backache/ headache/ toothache/ etc.
- My head/ back/ leg/ foot/ stomach hurts.
- I have some discomfort on my …
To practice, make cards with the questions a doctor might ask and others with answers. Have some students pick a card from the doctor's questions and others from the patient's. Pair the students up and have them act out short exchanges where one is the doctor and the other is the patient.
How Do You Feel?
In addition to expressing what they have, it is also important to describe symptoms using adjectives. Adjectives provide more details and can come in handy when the doctor wants to know where to look. Take a look at some examples:
- My throat feels scratchy/ irritated/raw.
- I feel feverish.
- My nose feels itchy.
- My neck is stiff/ sore
- My chest feels constricted.
- My feet are swollen
Write down a list of ailments on the board. Assign one to each student and have them describe how they might feel when they have this ailment. For example: Sore throat. The student would then say, “My throat feels raw and irritated”.
Is It Bad?
Very often simply stating what you have or what hurts just isn't enough. We need to let the doctor know how bad that pain or problem is. A great way to intensify is by using adjectives and adverbs. Take a look at some popular choices.
- I have a terrible headache
- I feel intense pain in my leg when I walk.
- I have a mild stomachache
- I feel a little dizzy when I get up.
- My throat is terribly irritated
Here you can use a simple guessing game. Student A can describe how he/she feels and student B has to guess what he/she has. For example:
Student A: I have intense pain in my stomach.
Student B: You have a stomachache.
When Did These Symptoms Begin?
This is another typical question. Doctors naturally want to know and always ask when symptoms began.This information is also vital for an accurate medical diagnosis. With your ESL students it is a good idea to practice this. Take a look at the following expressions
- They started last week/ one week ago/ last Monday.
- I have had these symptoms for a week.
For this last activity a role play is very handy. Basically one student plays the doctor while another plays the patient. After they are done they can switch roles.
Though we would all like to feel like a million dollars everyday, that is sadly impossible.
Getting sick is a natural human condition. By practicing this, we are in fact helping our ESL students cope with difficult situations. After all, they have to be ready for whatever happens.