Beyond Languages

By Julie Sandra-

When I started out my career, I was working in a reputed Institute that had patients that came from all over India. Though I knew Tamil and English, I was forced to learn to communicate with my patients in Hindi and Bengali. The patients I had previously were from West Bengal and Bangladesh. I remember thinking about how I am going to do speech therapy for this child when the mother nor the child can understand my English. The patients who came there were from remote villages who didn’t have access to centers that provide therapy in their place and now had come here as their only option.  I felt the pressure of not letting them down. Days went by and  I was determined to somehow communicate and teach them. I got help from a few of my colleagues who were well versed with the language and I started writing down Bengali phrases and words that I would need to communicate with the caregivers and the children.

I slowly started my therapy with the limited language that I knew and hoped that my limited knowledge of Bengali would not reflect as a limitation to the skills in training their child. A few weeks went by when I started noticing that the caregivers took the effort to learn English and teach me Bengali words when I was teaching their child. I felt encouraged and motivated during each session because I knew I was getting through and they also started to trust me. Then the breakthrough happened. During our weekly rounds with my multidisciplinary team, a particular parent reported that the child who was attending Speech therapy had started to communicate verbally with the mother and was trying to repeat words. She was ecstatic that her child started to talk. I was in shock! I thought I was not making any progress and now the parent revealed that the therapy had some impact on their lives.

After rounds, I went to meet the mother and she was thanking me for helping her child to talk. I told her that it was a team effort and she was also an integral part of the team and her contribution in helping me learn the language just facilitated the therapy process also.

Over the following weeks, I noted gradual progress with my other patients who were also from West Bengal and Bangladesh. That is when I realized that the parents and caregivers were equally as important as the therapist in training their child and when they work hand in hand we see better progress in the child. Over the years I never let language or any other factor be a barrier for conducting my therapy sessions. I believe that I can always learn from my patients and with the parents’ cooperation, we can make a difference in the child’s and their lives.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Languages

    1. Hey! Thank you for your comment. I’ve had seniors and juniors from Nepal during my college days and worked with them a couple of times. So, I think I understand the nervousness 😅 but I’m sure you’ll do great despite the language difference, like they did. Good luck!

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