Language course breaches barriers

29 July 2015

Patients are more at ease and much more open about what ails them when a medical practitioner addresses them in their mother tongue.

This has been the experience of Cyril Mahlati, a Xhosa-speaking nurse at the Kraaifontein community health centre, who recently completed a course in conversational Afrikaans. The course, as part of which participants are able to improve their proficiency in either isiXhosa or Afrikaans, is a joint initiative between UCT's health science and humanities faculties, the Western Cape health department and the European Union.

"The patient is more free when I speak Afrikaans instead of English. I thought I at least understood some Afrikaans before the course, but notice that I understand a lot more now," said Mahlati.

This year saw the third group of healthcare workers completing the 12-week course, which is available to staff at both the Delft and Kraaifontein community health centres. Plans are afoot to extend the course to personnel in the Northern Tygerberg district. In September it will be presented to staff at the Orbit Centre and Karl Bremer Hospital.

Photo caption: Dr Minnie Lewis (right) from UCT with Dr Doris Nyembwe (middle) and Cyril Mahlati, who both completed a course in conversational Afrikaans.

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