The new Spanglish: Spanathi

Marathi is a very challenging language. The alphabet has multiple ‘D’, ‘K’ and ‘T’ letters, whose different sounds I have difficulty discriminating, and the language has grammar rules that are backwards and  complicated compared to the rules of English and Spanish. It is both frustrating and fun to learn; it is discouraging that some words just won’t stick in my head, but the staff at CRHP are eager to teach and encouraging instructors. I enjoy spending time in the library exchanging English phrases for Marathi with Dnyaneshwar, a worker on the Mobile Health Team, chatting with Dr. Raju in the hospital learning parts of the body and how to ask medical questions, and going out with the MHT for village visits, where a Marathi lesson is almost guaranteed. It is gratifying to learn and even more exciting to facilitate others in learning my language.


no notebook? no problem: Madhu teaches how to write ‘wait’ (white) and ‘balk’ (black) in the script

I never really considered learning another language besides Spanish because its utility in America couldn’t compare to that of Spanish, and its interesting how my head is handling this new tongue: since coming to Jamkhed and beginning to learn Marathi, my brain has interjected Marathi phrases with Spanish words, defaulting to Español to fill in gaps in sentences. I’ve found myself saying, “Kuthe vas?” or “Ya ikre por favor”, as if the wires are crossed and I output mixed signals. I have also found that its becoming harder to recall Spanish vocabulary, as more Marathi is pushing its way into my brain and being.

In the whirlwind of Jamkhed work and life, I haven’t exactly made learning Marathi my first priority, and sometimes I am really disappointed in myself for not being able to communicate and missing out on a a joke or a serious discussion. This linguistic barrier, however, has made explicit the value of being able to communicate appropriately, clearly, and personally with one’s patients; on the flip side, it has made me realize that a great deal of medicine and caring for a patient is involved in non-verbal communication, including attitude, respect, even the atmosphere of the office.

Today a baby boy was born in the hospital, and I scrubbed in and assisted with the delivery(even though it was the woman’s 4th child and it was a breeze!) and gave the newborn a bath. I was able to tell the mother it was a healthy baby boy, weighing 3.25kg, and ask her how she was feeling and if she wanted water or preferred to rest. As I carried the wide-eyed little bundle out of the OR into the maternity ward, I was able to ask the family members who they were in relation, and make small conversation about it being lunchtime and the baby’s chubby cheeks. I was also able to explain my camera, ask if it was okay to take a picture, and apologize when the flash almost made the newborn cry. These are ‘baby’ steps (that pun is for you, Richard), but as I look back to the first baby I saw delivered, I feel much more connected to the family and this miracle today than I did then, simply because I could speak with the nurses and mother and family.

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