Essential Medical Mandarin for Health Care Providers

Publication ID Published Version
3180 July 21, 2009 1


The current healthcare setting is confounded by many problems. One of the most basic is the inability of physicians and patients to understand one another due to differences in language. As of 2000, over 46 million people in the United States do not speak English as their primary language and over 21 million speak English less than "very well." Given the direct role of clear communication to a strong relationship between physicians and their patients, this language barrier represents a serious problem for the delivery of quality care.
The Essential Medical Mandarin course was designed to address this problem. This is an intensive two-hour course that introduces the Chinese language to physicians and other health care providers, and exposes them to a select number of culturally relevant issues in the context of medicine. These topics include demographics, health concerns, healthcare beliefs and practices, and alternative therapy specific to the Chinese-speaking population. The first hour is dedicated to didactic learning in which the teachers present the basic courtesy expressions and survival questions necessary in a medical interview. The second hour is a small group interactive session during which students can enrich their experience by further polishing their Chinese pronunciation in a simulated patient-physician encounter.
These individuals are encouraged to learn additional phrases and vocabulary that are not covered in the first hour but are pertinent to their field of specialty during the small group session. All the teaching materials and reference flash cards are provided in a packet to encourage future self-directed learning. Altogether, this program is intended to equip healthcare professionals with the essential language skills that will ultimately allow them to take better care of their Chinese-speaking patients.


Zhang C, Sangarlangkarn A, Luo D, Millman A, Su K, Tong C, Lin J. Essential Medical Mandarin for Health Care Providers. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2009. Available from:

Contains Information Suitable for Patient Education

Educational Objectives

  1. To be able to recognize culturally relevant issues that can facilitate communication between health care providers and their Chinese-speaking patients.
  2. To be able to demonstrate proper pronunciation and usage of basic Chinese medical expressions.
  3. To be able to utilize support and resources to encourage future self-directed learning.


  • Mandarin, Chinese, Language (MeSH)


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Professionalism

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills

Instructional Methods

  • Independent Learning
  • Lecture
  • Tutorial

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional & Faculty Development
  • Professional School
    • Medical Student
  • Professional School Post-Graduate Training
    • Fellow
    • Resident


  • Presentation
  • Reference

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ISSN 2374-8265