Medical Japanese

As always, one of my new year’s resolutions is to learn more Japanese. This year, however, I want to especially focus on medical terms. I am not a particularly sickly person, but as I get older any slight twinge or throb brings out the hypochondriac in me and has me rushing to medical web-sites to see what it is that is about to kill me. I’ve written before about how I no longer get headaches, just brain tumours, and it is true that I spend far more time worrying about my health than is, well, healthy really.  It has been worse than ever in recent months. I now find myself reading about, say, pancreatic cancer, and the site will inform me, ‘Typically people with cancer of the pancreas will exhibit no symptoms,’ and I will think, ‘Shit! That’s me. I’ve got no symptoms!’

Last year, my worrying had me paying a visit to the Sunday emergency hospital and consulting with a doctor who I was fairly certain told me I was okay. Fairly certain. You see, I am fine with Japanese as far as having a chit-chat and going about my daily business is concerned. I can hold my own in a bar or at a family gathering. But there are times when I am talking with doctors and I think I get what they are saying but am not 100% sure. That kind of comprehension is all well and good with friends and family, but if somebody is telling you that he would like to take out a part of your body, you really ought to make sure you understand completely before you smile and nod and say thank you. I want to be able to go home and tell my wife something more specific than, ‘He said I should lose weight. I think. Either that or he said I have to have my intestine removed.’

And so it is that I am discovering the Japanese words for appendix and liver, kidneys and gall bladder, prostate and pancreas. I may not know what most of these do, but at least I can confirm with the doctor that they are all okay after scaring myself half to death on the Internet.

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4 Responses to Medical Japanese

  1. James says:

    I am in a worse boat. I am not quite middle yet, but visiting the doctor is probably when I feel the most comfortable and yet the least comfortable when communicating with a Japanese person. The reason is that a lot of doctors use specific medical words in English. They don’t seem to know flu, but they know influenza, and hey, I know that word too. I just don’t know the Japanese they use to explain that word to me.

    Story time: A few weeks ago I went to see a urologist. I took my translator with me (Girlfriend) and they had a good chinwag about the hapless foreigner sitting in the corner. Now, my Japanese is comparable to that of a 3 year old, so I was pretty much a mute during the whole visit, however, at one point I heard the c-word, not once, but many times, and not just from the doctor but from my GF too. They both had serious looks smeared across their faces, and I must admit I was feeling a little faint. I interjected by trying my best in Japanese to ask “Wait, what? Cancer?” To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe I was expecting him to suddenly spew forth impeccable English but he basically spoke rapid fire Japanese with the word cancer peppered throughout. Long story a little short, he was telling me that I don’t have any cancer around problem and he was listing the reasons why he thought so. That was part of my motivation to study Japanese harder.

    • Glad you were okay. But yes, it can be very worrying when you hear words and are not sure what they are saying about them, especially when they have grim expressions as they talk!

      • James says:

        Tell me about it. I have become more used to the grim expressions people have when they talk to me in Japan. Apparently, a doctor giving someone news uses the same expressions as the lady as the post office not knowing where to send a package with UK written on it.

  2. dokaben says:

    You’re not officially middle-aged until you’ve gone to the ER with chest pain and returned home two hours later with a diagnosis of acid reflux.


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