Communication between a duck and a chicken

Communication between a duck and a chicken

In a multilingual society, communication can be a challenge in our hospitals. Our main languages are English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. I learned a few simple Tamil words too.
Below was my experience communicating with an Indian estate worker who was admitted for a head injury. These were part of the neurological assessment on him.

“Open your mouth.” No response. “Buka mulut (in Malay).” No response. “Via to reh” he opened his mouth! He understood and obeyed the command! “
“Alright close your mouth.”But his mouth was still opened. “Tutup mulut (in Malay).” But his mouth was still open. I didn’t know how to say ‘close your mouth’ in Tamil. I had to physically close his mouth shut!

“Now hold my hands tightly.” No response.
“Pegang tangan kuat kuat (in Malay).” No response.
“Kai pu di” and he held my hands tightly! Proud to show that his hands were strong! There was obviously no weakness in his upper limbs.
“Okay, okay, let go, let go!” How to say ‘let go’ in Tamil? Ouch, ouch, I winced in pain. He saw it. So he let go of my hands!

Some of the young hospital staff I met were able to say some simple words in other languages like ‘what is your name?’ ‘any pain?’ ‘Have you eaten?’ Etc.
Most hospitals nowadays have interpreters as we have more international patients like Japanese, Korean, Arabs, etc.


woman in pink long sleeved shirt and green floral skirt
Communication between a duck and a chicken (Photo by Nicholas Githiri on


“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker.

Published by Chen S. P. @ TPTan

Serena Chen @TPTan, Master degree in nursing (Monash) . Serena teaches local and overseas nurses in a stomaltherapy program. She had presented papers internationally. Serena is a member of the ‘Golden Key International Society (Monash). She was an editor of a mental health bulletin and she enjoys pottery works, cartoons, painting and poems. She shares insightful experiences about being a carer for people with mental illness and cancer in this defining society.

11 thoughts on “Communication between a duck and a chicken

  1. Wow. That happened a lot in New York and New Jersey hospitals. High school students with multi-language skills are asked to volunteer in the hospital here all the time. LOL.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Communication is very important in dealing with clients or patients. In some California hospitals,they use the “blue phone” to assist with any language. It works very well.For example
    Spanish,Chinese language, Vietnamese, Tagalog etc.
    The doctors often prefer in person interpreters because they feel that the blue phone is time consuming.

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