10 March 2008

You can understand me, yea?

If English can have dialects, surely Liberian English counts as one. Part of my daily job as the hospital ward physician is to chat with all the patients that are being admitted to make sure that there are no contraindications to surgery. Taking a patient's history is always done in a very regimented fashion in medicine, as the internist starts with the chief complaint and moves down through a patient's past medical history in order to get to an assessment and plan. In my first couple of days on the ward, I fumbled my words as I tried to communicate. After a couple of crash courses from the translators, however, I am beginning to get the gist of things. These are the things I tell the patients daily:

Welcome. My name is Dr. Peggy, and I will ask you some questions to make sure your body alright for surgery.

What sicknesses do you have in your body? (What medical problems do you have?)

How many bellies have you had? (How many children have you had?)

Any bellies spoiled? (Any miscarriages?)

Have you ever had any work done on you? (Any surgeries in the past?)

Any medicine can itch you or treat your body bad? (Any allergies to any medications?)

Are you taking any tablets right now? (Are you on any medications?)

You can smoke? You can drink? (Do you smoke? Do you drink?)

Any sicknesses in your family? (Any family history of diseases?)

You can reduce? You dry now? (Have you lost weight?)

Your skin can feel hot? (Any fevers?)

Your chest can pain you? (Any chest pain?)

You can breave freely? (Any shortness of breath?)

Any runny stomach? (Do you have diarrhea?)

And the list goes on. I find myself slurring my words and dropping my consonants as I work my way from A ward to D ward, inquiring about Henry's "poo poo" or asking if Naymah's headache has "cooled down". One day I will find myself saying "Thanks God," when someone asks me, "How are you doing?" Then I will have truly mastered Liberian English.


Kimberly Haugen said...


Goodness, you brought such a smile to my face. Thank you for bringing my thoughts back to Liberia. Not that this is a difficult task, but still. I hope all is well with you and Mark.

Tell everyone I said, "Hi".


tyronebcookin said...

This is very similiar to the neighborhood 'english' where I grew up in Alabama.

megan petock said...

This list is pure brilliance. I might need to turn it into a remembrance plaque and hang it on my wall when I return to Philadelphia.


SalseraLibanesa said...

if u ever ask me how many bellies i have had, i will get upset! :)