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idun

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I know this has been well covered before, but as it happens I was talking to a friend of a friend just over a week ago and they said that their good friends had recently returned from living in France because as they had got older and needed medical attention, they were not coping with the medical french.

And that is fair comment and good for them.

And I still maintain, that IF one expects any medical person to speak english and something gets lost in translation, as things do, then surely it is the patient's fault who has required other than french to be spoken, when the medical staffs working language is french in France.  Is this a case of people being too lazy to learn,  and not covering all their bases when moving to another country.

Also, time wasting and what I consider putting excess pressure on any service which effectively is wasting financial ressources if someone has to be found to translate.

ps, this annoys me equally in the UK. Live here learn english......or welsh or gaelic depending on where one moves to.

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Interesting...point Idun

Having spent half of my life in France (the last month is no exception) in Hospitals, Doctors, specialists, Kiné's, Laboratories, and all the rest of it.....I have only met a few medical professionals in 20 years or so that are willing to speak English....and I respect that. A good example. Since my latest foot injury I have had many medical appointments in two cities and no one has spoken a word of English. Not one. Don't they study bloody English at School here !!!!!!

Now, I know life is different in the SW (I am guessing medical professionals are forced to speak English.....do they like that ????) but generally speaking in most 'normal' areas of France you are on your own when it comes to medical appointments.

So yes, when it comes to heath French is a necessity. Well, the basics at least.

But, it is important to remember that some people just can't learn French. Should that stop them from moving to France ?

Having said that, what worries me most are those who move to France and think they can pick up the language as they go along. They have no chance. Really, no chance.
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I prefer the Doctor to speak French to me, as then I am sure that what is being said is correct. People assume that a medical professional who speaks English knows it well enough to express the complicated things that are diagnoses and advice.

On occasion I have used a phrase in English to be certain that we are both referring to the same thing, as some diseases have  greater or lesser profiles in the two countries, for example ME was largely unaccepted in France for some  years, and I have no idea what  we would call les jambes lourdes in English.

It sounds very harsh but I feel for anything other than emergencies people who want to have an English-speaking Doctor should consider consulting one in the UK.

That being said I will of course continue to help or advise anyone on here who needs it [:D]

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I do worry about the "does anybody know of an English speaking doctor in blah blah blah sur blah", type questions on forums because the chancers are that even if you find an English speaking doctor you will invariably be referred to specialists and other medical professionals who probably don't.

So really a comprehension of French is required regardless when dealing with health matters.

Of course you then have got to make the appointments, and deal with administration and all that which is probably worse than the appointment itself.
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Very much in line with your thoughts Idun and Norman (edited to add and ALBF). This even though my French is less than perfect and the OH's is much worse. She never had the opportunity to learn at school and while she has picked up a lot, it falls far short of a detailed medical discussion.. I therefore have to act as interpreter, and if I get it wrong, well that is down to me, but I do always check back the salient points with the doctor to ensure I have understood correctly.

A few doctors will discuss some items directly with her in pretty good English, but then revert to French for the detail with me, and occasionally I find they have made a mistake in their translation to English. So far nothing that would be critical, but I feel it demonstrates why it is important for the doctor to work in their mother tongue.
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We had an excellent french doctor who spoke no english and who retired and was replaced by an excellent french doctor who worked in London for some 10 years. Instead of 'Monsieur Kong', he leans into the waiting room and calls 'hi John'. He prefers to speak English and I'm sure I'm understanding everything he has to say. I'm quite happy dealing with other medics in french but it is reassuring to have a fluent english speaker for your medic.
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But, idun, your friends were doing absolutely the right thing by moving back to a country where they felt comfortable about understanding their medical treatment.

I am told I speak pretty fluent French, but if seriously ill/injured I might be fazed by having to describe subtle variations in symptoms, and the difference between say a pain that was throbbing, stinging, aching, twinging etc. Though I guess if I had to, I would learn pretty fast.

I agree, I would not necessarily trust an "English-speaking doctor" to get it all right, so would much rather deal in French.

I can completely understand their move, and think it praiseworthy.

Angela

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I spent 24hrs in a French hospital in April Urgences and then kept in overnight. I managed well enough and speaking French wasn't a problem for me. The only English offered was from one little nurse who handed me the call button and said "press red bouton" bless her ?

OH went to see a local generaliste last week. She offered to speak English but he insisted on speaking French and was proud of the fact that he managed. ?

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[quote user="alittlebitfrench"] Having said that, what worries me most are those who move to France and think they can pick up the language as they go along. They have no chance. Really, no chance.[/quote]

 

You speak for yourself!

 

My wake up call was being repeatedly hospitalised over a long period in my 3rd year, it really gave me the kick up the ar5e that I needed to learn the language, I did not have any more lessons (I had had a couple of hours a week for a year) but on leaving the hospital I threw away my Sky box and parabole and no longer spoke to any English people in the area, I got a French girlfriend and went ito total immersion, I was criticised for "going native" - Muppets!!!

 

I cracked about 18 months ago and started watching UK TV again, to my shame I rarely Watch French TV now but its through choice rather than not being able to understand, I am as happy watching French TV as English other than it being generally K-rap.

 

My médecin was recommended to me by an English person but from day one I always spoke or at least tried to speak French with him, I didnt realise that he got all the English patients because he can speak some English but he tells me that he is really uncomfortable doing so for the reasons mentioned here and that he would like to drop all the English patients apart from me. His son is now my optométriste. 

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I do feel for your toubib Chancer, poor bloke.

And I just picked the language up too, so my french is uncultured street

french and probably rather rough a lot of the time....... but it serves

and has never stopped me doing anything I have wanted to............

........or the thing I was determined to do, which was communicate.

 

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Interesting, this. I've just recently experienced at second hand the minefield that is the language barrier,coupled with the postcode lottery that is the reality of the French health service.

A close friend who speaks little French (but has a wife with excellent French) was ill. Long story short, he was seen by a couple of different specialists in different hospitals and told by one that he had an infection, and by the other that he had prostate cancer. Inoperable prostate cancer. He was told he had months to live, offered chemo (which he refused), and sent away.

No amount of contact or communication with their GP would either confirm the diagnosis nor further the treatment. The couple were literally preparing for his imminent death, yet no further information was forthcoming. For three months, they lived a nightmare. I was asked to translate a document for them into French, listing what had happened, as they began to doubt that they had correctly understood (or had been correctly understood) and that somehow, the diagnosis and treatment recommendations had been lost in the language problems.

Certainly, a part of the problem was indeed the language (although, let me say again, the wife's French is more than competent). A third opinion was sought, and an English-speaking doctor said it wasn't cancer. Above all, they belived him because he told them in English. More to the point, he was also right.

I can't begin to imagine what they've been through. I only know that language problems undoubtedly compounded a catalogue of medical incompetence.
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I can only say, first-hand, that that bears absolutely no resemblance to my experience.

There is a well-established procedure for dealing with symptoms that suggest the possibility of prostate cancer, including a blood test to establish PSA levels, then a rectal examination followed by a biopsy if needed.

If cancer is detected then further scans and tests are done before a series of treatment options are suggested.

This is so standard that I cannot imagine how it was not followed in his case.

I know about 10 men of my age with these problems and they have all followed this path with different twists according to what turned up.

In the past 10 years only one of them has died.

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Which, I think, Norman, shows that medical treatment can be fantastic in France, but there's always an occasion where it can go horribly wrong. Great if you're one of the success stories, but I can assure you (as I became directly involved) that in this case it certainly did go horribly wrong. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil of being diagnosed with any form of cancer, let alone the physical pain. It's even worse, IMO, to be told you have an inoperable cancer and months to live, then spend three months unsure if that's really the case or not. I admire the fortitude of these people for managing to cope.

I should add that they went to three hospitals.
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The system in France is a big lottery to be fair and as a patient you do have to manage your own healthcare. No one is going to do it for you. Is it the same in the UK ?

You have to second guess, double check, read the results, manage appointments, manage prescriptions, blood results, fight the administration and whatever. A lot of the time you are diagnosing yourself. Therein lies the problem if your French is not up to scratch. You go for some tests and you are given the results and the terminology will be medical French. It is not in English.

I don't know what it is like in the UK as I have really experienced it but the French system is not user friendly.
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I would agree Idun's friends were sensible to return to the UK where they are fully able to converse in their own language.

Although I managed well with my French hospital experience I was pleased that we were leaving for UK two days later and my surgery was carried out when I reached home. Also I was returning to Doctors and a Consultant who know me and my medical history.

Albf we are very fortunate to have a first class GP. centre and doctors who are extremely dedicated. I am not sure that all areas are as well catered for.
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We have recently moved house in the UK. I am fortunate in that I seldom visit a doctor. However, after 20-odd years at the same GP surgery, I've been less than impressed with the new one we've joined.

I've been given bad (as in wrong) advice at a supposed "health check" by a practice nurse, and I swear that all the receptionists are tasked with ensuring that as few people as possible succeed in getting an appointment. The doctors themselves are fine.. If you ever get to see them.
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I swear that all the receptionists are tasked with ensuring that as few

people as possible succeed in getting an appointment. The doctors

themselves are fine.. If you ever get to see them.

That is  universal I reckon. I recognise it in France too.

One of the medical secretaries at the village health centre told me that she had better things to do with her time than paperwork when I asked her why I myself had to send off the attestation that I have 100% cover to the laboratory who do my blood tests.

But it's not only in medicine.

Trying to get past the administration to the people who do the real work can be a nightmare. I have had it with utilities, various 'help' lines, and of course after sales 'service' .

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I think again that it might be a bit of a lottery..or, at least, in the case of helplines, down to the person you get on the end of the phone.

Two recent examples.

1. Before going to France this time, I tried to get our phone line connected (ligne résidence secondaire) online. When I got into the account, it said "résilié"

I hadn't cancelled it, so assumed Orange had unilaterally decided to, given that (I assumed) we don't use it enough, or something.

Didn't really worry me, as my UK mobile costs me no extra to use in France. It just means that others in France can call me without incurring extra costs for ringing an English mobile.

On arrival, and just from curiosity, I popped into the Orange shop one day to ask why they'd cancelled my contract. I was asked to come back in half an hour so they could investigate and have the info for me when I returned. When I did go back, I was told I was no.3 in the shop queue and it might take a while, so I just told them to let it drop as I wasn't that bothered and didn't plan to waste my day chez Orange.

Imagine my surprise, when I got an email from Orange telling me that my online bill was ready to view. Which prompted me to pick up the phone, only to discover I had a dialling tone!

I phoned them, and explained everything above, and the lady and I decided that it must have been that someone in the Orange shop had just decided to activate my phone without consulting me. So I asked her to cancel the contract, this time at MY request. And she said I wouldn't be charged with the connection cost. And do you know, that's exactly what happened! And after all the Orange horror stories I've heard, nobody was more surprised than me.

2. Just got back from France where we had a trip to Angouleme for the Circuit des Remparts, which Mr Betty has wanted to see for years. He bought tickets online for the road race, and received an email confirmation with a reference number, telling us that we could get the tickets anytime from the Friday, but with no indication of the opening hours of the ticket office. So I phoned to find out. The phone number was the Tourist Office, and they didn't know either. However, the lady promised she would ask someone from the organisers to call me back. Again, to my surprise (have I really got so jaded?) a nice man phoned me back. He told me that the shop was open until 18:00 on the Friday, and from 10-12 and14-18h on the Saturday. Closed Sunday. The part of the event for which we had tickets was on the Sunday. So, on the Saturday (having already driven the 2 hour round trip on the Friday night for the first part of the event which started at 20:45) we made a special trip to Angouleme to pick up our tickets...only to learn from the very helpful girl who served us that not only was the ticket office open on the Sunday as well, but it opened at 07:30!!!

So, it really does matter who you get on the end of the phone. And that's also pretty much the same problem whichever side of the channel you're on.
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[quote user="You can call me Betty"] I swear that all the receptionists are tasked with ensuring that as few people as possible succeed in getting an appointment. The doctors themselves are fine.. If you ever get to see them.[/quote]

As someone once said "a Doctor has to study for over 7 years to qualify, it seems that a receptionist can becomes an expert in 2 weeks".  [:D]

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The receptionists at our GP surgery are really pleasant and helpful and the GPs, and there are many I've known over the years, are all great too. But the GP surgery before this one had ogres as receptionists and some of the doctors were awful too; we moved from one to the other and couldn't believe the difference.

The GP practice we use in France is pretty good, receptionists as well as doctors. One doctor spent all his lunchtime break phoning to try to get my husband an appointment for a scan that afternoon, and cursed all the clinics for closing at lunchtime - and he was French himself, and, of course, they themselves shut at lunchtime. He speaks English perfectly, grabs any chance to do so. As did the consultant at the Nîmes clinic where my husband was treated as an inpatient for that illness.

The doctors at a different Nîmes hospital I was in for several nights earlier this year mostly chose to speak English, although there was no need for them to do so; I saw quite a few doctors of varying ages and only a few chose to speak French to me. I was quite happy for them to speak in either language.
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As you get older most people by the time they reach their sixties and seventies will have some form of deterioration in their short term memory. What this means is that as you get older what you learn last, you forget first.

Therefore, not only does it get more difficult to learn a foreign language as you get older, but what you have learnt becomes more difficult to retain as you age. This becomes a major issue if you have any element of dementia.

Idun moved to France as a relative youngster and had youth on her side in learning French, but it is a totally different proposition for many retirees who move in later life, who may find their ability to speak French deteriorating just as their medical needs require it most.
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That is a very good point Sprogster.

I moved at 26 and I still struggle (I'm not gifted at learning my own language) but I have reached a point where I can survive in France.

So, what is the answer for retirees wishing to move to France ? Only gifted people in linguistics can learn a language at such a late stage in their lives methinks.

The glossy French mags suggest life is so easy to move to France but is it ?
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Aside from the dementia aspect I think saying that Learning a language is harder when you are older is  a cop out often used by those who dont/wont make the effort.

 

Yes its hard, but is it harder than when Young, and if so then so what, as we get older unless we give up we should get more determined, have greater motivation and confidence and be far better at things that would make youngsters give up.

 

I got an unclassified in French at O level because it was too hard for me and I didnt put the effort in, i wasnt motivated and didnt see any benefit, exactly what I see in so many people that decide to live in a foreign country and say that they are too old to learn the language. Many people continue Learning languages into their 80's and 90's but then they probably move to new countries for reasons other than cheap housing, wine and cigarettes.

 

I only started athletics in my late 50's and have learned that older runners are far better equipped to run marathons than the younger despite not having anywhere near the physical capacities of their youth, they are called coureurs de fond and its their determination and experience of overcoming lifes challenges that carry them through better than the youngsters, I had the pleasure to witness a 75 year old British guy running a marathon at St Quentin, to celebrate his 70th birthday he decided to run 75 full marathons consecutively in 75 days, I bet if he moved to France he would not say its too hard to learn the language because of his age.

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Chance, I agree with you 100%.  Maybe it IS harder when you are older but I don't accept that.  I just go on learning.

I thought I was pretty good until I changed my internet provider recently and I couldn't for the life of me make out what I had to do!!!

I rang, I went on the tchat line.  I learned tons but still, NO result.  Until, that is, one of our members, Sue, put me on the right path.

Do I feel ashamed?  You bet I do but then I tried!  I failed but that, to me, is no reason to give up altogether.  So, yes, I agree with you.  Plus, I shall NEVER give up trying because I HATE to say I can't.

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