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Spanish Medical Terminology

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  • 4 months later...

Really quickly: I started translating a bit in a hospital while working my Sophomore year in college - so this was after a cumulative 4 yrs of high school Spanish classes and 5 undergrad courses in Spanish. Afterwards, while doing pre-med curriculum, I took MANY more Spanish courses and got my BA in Spanish and worked as a medical translator for almost a decade before PA school, making a pretty decent living.


I recommend 2 books that I kept with me throughout the career (3, actually if you want the crash course #1, and will count the must-have dictionary!).


1) If you need a basic refresher or need to understand how the Spanish language is structured, or just haven't had Spanish since High School: start with "Shaum's Easy Outlines Spanish." I have the "crash course" book from 1999, but from preview samples I've looked at on amazon, the newer edition is the EXACT same first 30 pages as the 1999 edition.... the newer version has 8 more pages. Of what, I have no idea, but my guess is that the old version is just as good. I would use it as a basics in Spanish lesson, especially if you aren't fluent. Just keep in mind that my NEXT suggestion will teach you just as well......


***2) McGraw Hill's "Complete Medical Spanish: Practical medical Spanish for Quick and Confident Communication." - ***This has been my translator Bible, pretty much, and is super helpful.*** It has almost every word you will ever use in clinical practice. On my first few weeks of a new job in a new medical specialty, I photo-copied a few pages full of terminology and verbs and made my own mini-book for on-the-job reference. It has exercises and things and reads just like a high school Spanish textbook - super easy to use. It is especially geared to medical professionals and even used to come with CME credits, but I think they stopped that shortly after I bought mine.


3) "VOX compact Spanish and English Dictionary." I bought both the pocket version and the full 864-page paperback version - skip the pocket edition and get the full version. The pocket is NOT useful when it comes to frequently used words.....and I suspect that people who gave it a bad review GOT THE POCKET version, LOL! Just get the full version - I keep one at home and one at work. Honestly, the size of the "big" one isn't that big anyhow - 5.4 x 1.4 x 8.3 inches. Keep in mind that it doesn't always tell you which nouns are masculine or feminine, but mostly it does in the Spanish section and just not the English section. Plus, you have other awesome books here to help with your understanding of that!


I am SUPER glad to have contributed to this topic! ;) 

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I took a medical spanish course in undergrad where we also used the 'McGraw Hill's Complete Medical Spanish" book, which I thought was pretty good.  I think when it comes to learning languages its really important to 'learn from different angles' to help reinforce everything.  What I mean by that is you should always supplement textbooks with auditory and visual learning methods as well.  There are some great (free) medical spanish podcasts out there - my favorite is the iTunes one literally called 'Medical Spanish Podcast' made by a bilingual doctor, and it does a great job of going into the conversations you might have in common medical scenarios.  Once you have a pretty good base, I'd recommend you check out some medical TV shows that are all over the various latin american countries just like they are in the US.  They're certainly helpful to be able to hear full-speed medical spanish from native speakers, and they're also quite entertaining.  Of course, nothing can be better than living abroad and being truly immersed in the language, so take every chance you can get before PA school!


 If there is ever vocabulary you don't know, you'll find that its really hard to get accurate translations for many medical words in traditional Span-Eng dictionaries, especially since many spanish speakers use informal terminology or the term only makes sense as a phrase.  The best dictionary reference in my experience is the website/app WordReference, because they not only have a traditional dictionary/translator, but they also have a really robust forum of people who have answered/translated countless requests for colloquial words/phrases.  I have yet to find a medical word or phrase that wasn't already translated on that forum - and its all easily searchable from the app on my phone... very useful!


Hope this helps~

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