English remains one of the outstanding issues yet to be resolved among health professionals. Although 90% of biomedical English is Greek or Latin in origin, pronunciation and other aspects such as prepositions or prepositional verbs are the main problem areas for Spanish scientists. For that reason, on November 4-5, 2011, the Esteve Foundation launched the fourth edition of Biomedical English Training Seminars in Bilbao. These seminars aims to provide the necessary resources to successfully apply this international language in various contexts.
Writing scientific papers, presenting, or working in an English-speaking hospital are some of the situations in which English becomes indispensable to a health professional. Ramon Ribes, coordinator of the course and a specialist in radiology, has spent years perfecting his command of the language. For him, one of the main reasons why the level of English in our country is so low is because it tends to focus too much on the grammar, ignoring other aspects such as pronunciation. This is a problem that is growing in the biomedical environment because those that teach the language do not usually have a scientific background.
While Ribes covered many of the most common errors in the use of biomedical English, and some solutions for solving problematic situations such as question time at a conference, John Giba, a translator of scientific manuscripts born in Ohio, United States, focused on more specific aspects of language such as pronunciation and the correct communication of figures and numbers in English. Although it is impossible to match the pronunciation of a native, the goal is clear and fluent speech, free from ambiguity.
Fernando A. Navarro, author of a dictionary of doubts regarding English-Spanish translation in medicine, is an expert in so-called “false friends”. These are terms or expressions that are written in a similar way in different languages but have entirely different meanings and which can often lead to compromising situations. Navarro also explains the biomedical jargon in English that is rarely found in the textbooks.
Finally, Juan José Sanz gives an account of his own experience as a scientist working in a foreign laboratory, from his time at the Wellcome Trust Biocentre in Dundee. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome, in his opinion, is the inherent shyness of most Spanish people. He also deals with other essential aspects such as mastering the terminology specific to the laboratory, designing a good curriculum and knowing how to write an article in English.
In addition to the contribution of the above four teachers, the course also includes a series of practical exercises for students, e.g. learning to improve the pronunciation of their own personal introduction or designing their curriculum vitae in English.