|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 201-204
Let the people's idiom be the syntax of river of medicine
Yatish Agarwal1, Rashmikant Dave2, RS Sethi3
1 Editor-in-Chief, Astrocyte; Dean, University School of Medical and Paramedical Health Sciences, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University; and Professor of Radiology at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, India
2 Executive Director, National Board of Examinations, and Executive Editor, Astrocyte, India
3 Senior Editor, Astrocyte, and Chief of Nuclear Medicine at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, India
|Date of Web Publication||29-Oct-2018|
R S Sethi
Senior Editor, Astrocyte, and Chief of Nuclear Medicine at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College
Executive Director, National Board of Examinations, and Executive Editor, Astrocyte
Editor-in-Chief, Astrocyte; Dean, University School of Medical and Paramedical Health Sciences, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University; and Professor of Radiology at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Agarwal Y, Dave R, Sethi R S. Let the people's idiom be the syntax of river of medicine. Astrocyte 2018;4:201-4
A system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves, language, is — to put it rather succinctly — the key to human well-being, progress, and development. Inherently, it holds a number of functions, and these include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional sharing. But for language, perhaps, no human kingdom could have found shape, nor knowledge, civilization, or culture could have taken wings. In essence, language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run … and out of which they grow.
Curiously, however, in each different geographic part of mother earth, as man formed communes, each commune gave birth to a different dialect, a different tongue, call it language if you want. In the corridor of life, this embodied the people's beliefs, ideas, emotions, and expressions and became their doorway to new thought, and experimentation, knowledge, and wisdom. Over time, as human knowledge grew, new words, phrases, and idioms joined the ranks.
Over time, the boundaries between communes, states, and continents blurred. Just as the produce of one community, traveling hundreds and thousands of miles, benefited another, so did languages. Still, nothing could equal the ease and fluidity of native tongue. It remained the birthing ground for easy understanding, free thinking, and spontaneous expression.,,
Time and again, sociologists, thinkers, authors, and scientists have bowed to the unique significance of mother tongue—how learning and understanding comes far more simply, how communication can be more robust, and how new ideas can germinate far more easily in its medium.
Time and again, sociologists, thinkers, authors and scientists have bowed to the unique significance of mother tongue—how learning and understanding comes far more simply, how communication can be more robust, and how new ideas can germinate far more easily in its medium.
Ironically still, compeled by historic sociopolitical reasons, many parts of the world continue being ridden by the language of their once political masters. Even as the colonialists terminated their operations and shrunk to their homelands, their footprints have not been easy to dislodge. English, French, and Spanish thus continue to be the lingua franca over many parts of the world.
This has not been without its obvious benefits. A language spoken and written over large parts of the world allows for a common medium and easy transfer of ideas, knowledge, scientific and technological developments, and human wisdom.
However, this is where the paradox looms. If a language, perhaps even subliminally, bears the equivalence of a social class, it can never quite replace the native tongue. It then remains a preserve of that particular class. This has been the case with English, even though it traces a very significant following on this planet.
The Indian Landscape
Despite the lapse of more than 70 years since the British colonialists left the shores of India, the country continues to pay obeisance to English. It remains the first language in a number of fields, be it scientific curricula, academic programs, judicial court proceedings, or governance.
It is in this peculiar vein that the teaching of medical curricula, in colleges all across the country, continues to be in English. This puts not only the teachers and students but also the benefactors of medicine, the ordinary patient, at a distinct disadvantage.,,
John Brown, the 18th-century Scottish physician, had once said, “Symptoms are the body's mother tongue; signs are in a foreign language.” To take this thought a little further, it can well be said that no patient states his woes in a dialect not his own. A person can describe his pain, anguish, and distress most aptly in a language which he has grown up speaking from his early childhood. Unless a doctor knows and respects this native dialect and is taught the principles of medicine in the same tongue, he can never fare well in his understanding of the science.
Interestingly, since the very early days, the knowledge of medicine has been beset with metaphors, similes, and descriptions from the native landscape. Be it animals, plants, or vegetation, or foods, machinery, and natural bounties. The doughnut shape of red blood corpuscles, millet-seed appearance of miliary tuberculosis, anchovy-sauce-like pus in amoebic liver abscess, corkscrew esophagus in presbyesophagus, or cannon-ball-like pulmonary metastases can draw visual imagery only in minds familiar with these symbols.
A patient's description of symptoms, in any case, closely relates to the common symbols that occupy their lives. For physicians bred on English medicine literature, understanding the nuances of native dialect is never easy, nor it is easy for them to fathom the imagery of an alien world they have never seen, or follow the Latin and Greek principles which weld the technical terms. Unlike the students in the Western hemisphere, where Latin is taught just as is Sanskrit in schools in this part of the globe, students in India know nothing of Latin.
John Brown, the 18th century Scottish physician, had once said “Symptoms are the body’s mother tongue; signs are in a foreign language.”
Unless a doctor knows and respects the native dialect and is taught the principles of medicine in the same tongue, he can never fare well in his understanding of the science.
A very large number of Indian students who join medical schools in this country find it extremely hard to read, understand, learn, and think in English. They grope and grapple with the idiom, rather than focusing on the basics. Many of them lose their motivation, self-respect, and morale and turn into “also ran”.,,
Such doctors, inevitably, suffer from being rather ordinary physicians and still poorer communicators. They cannot comprehend their patients well and can do little to address their concerns and worries. Of educating patients about preventive and promotive health strategies, the less said, the better. Confused and straddled with poor language skills, they are often erroneously labeled as villains by the social order, which complicates the healthcare landscape even further.
In his famous work, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noahhas said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Alas, the English-driven medical curricula in India leave young physicians ill-equipped to touch the heart of the patient.
Need of the Hour
Clearly, therefore, if the benefits of medicine have to percolate to the common man, and if commoners have to be trained into becoming capable doctors in this country, it is time that the government, and the medical councils and varsities, do a major rethink and about-face. Just consider, if much smaller countries like Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Belarus, Georgia, Slovakia, Estonia, Mexico, and Brazil, with far lesser people than those who have Hindi as their mother tongue, can generate literature, curricula, and teach medicine in their native tongues, why is it that medical councils and varsities do not think of creating medical schools where the learning is in Hindi or another native dialect? It requires, as a first step, a liberal collective think-tank, which understands the ground reality and is free of any ill-gotten preconceived biases and prejudices, and is willing to concede ground.,,
Second, it calls for a determined effort both on the part of the government and the bodies which have for long stood committed toward the advancement of Hindi. The biggest argument given by the medical council against this naturalization of medical curricula is the lack of authoritative textbooks and journals in the vernacular. This deficit can be overcome if knowledgeable medical teachers who have love for Hindi can be provided with a clear mandate, conducive environment, and affirmative facilities. The pecuniary cost will be huge, especially in the beginning, but if the thought has to succeed, it must not be cobwebbed with bureaucratic hurdles.
If countries with much smaller population than the Hindi speaking states in India can produce medical text, syllabus, and teachers who can teach medicine in their native languages, why is it that the medical council and varsities in India cannot create medical schools where the teaching is in Hindi?
If the country can afford institutes of advanced studies in social sciences, it can do so most certainly in medical science, a branch of human knowledge which, at its very soul, works toward the physical, mental, and psychological well-being of the people.
This deficit can be overcome if knowledgeable medical teachers who have love for Hindi can be provided with a clear mandate, conducive environment and affirmative facilities. The pecuniary cost will be huge, especially in the beginning, but if the thought has to succeed, it must not be cobwebbed with bureaucratic hurdles.
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