Language and Communication


Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
I have a doctor friend who is a Homoeopath, and a good guy at that. He manages two clinics at different times in a day. I got to meet him one evening and he was rather free and relaxed which was unusual to me. His clinic usually had people waiting. As I was talking with him at length, I inquired why his clinic is rather thin these days. This is what he had to tell me ~~~

A few months back he appointed a young girl to take calls and manage the front desk and she was expected to open the clinic at a specific time and keep things ready. He had the usual habit of not giving prior appointment and people got to see him on the first come first serve basis. Yet he had his clinic phone number put up on the board, and his prescriptions also had the clinic number for the patient or visitors need.

It is very common for people here to call the clinic and find out the doctor availability before visiting and the new appointed girl was informed about it. He had also clearly said that he does not give appointment and hence there are no prior appointments for visiting. So all is well and the girl started.

This girl was a native language speaker and her English was rather not good or what we refer as broken English. As days went by new and repeat patients call started to come in and typically the questions are :
1. Is the doctor there ?
2. Can we get an appointment ?
mostly asked in English though quite a few of them speak the local language called kannada.
So her answers began like ~~~
1. Is the doctor there ?
YES / NO (depends upon he being IN or OUT)
2. Can we get an appointment ?
Can we get an appointment tomorrow ?
and on and on and on .......
New patients not finding appointment did not come in and repeat patients got a feeling that the doctor is too busy, and looked at other means.
Months rolled by and the clinic began to get thin and thin and the doctor had no clue, until a repeat patient called one evening....
1. Is the doctor there ?
2. Can we get an appointment ?
3. What do you mean no appointment ? he had asked me to come today ?
and he came and checked with the doctor as to why this girl answers with a NO APPOINTMENT when ever he has called......

It was here and after 6 months did he realize the extent of damage caused by the girl without even she realizing it, all in the need of her to respond to callers in English, even when people have talked the native language over phone and she knowing the same.
He is still recovering, while he has sacked her and made sure that the next one who sits understands clearly and communicates clearly in the local language or English.


Retired Old Goat
Staff member
There is an old saying: "It's hard to find good help these days."

Can this be assigned a root cause failure of "ineffective training"? Or, failure of the doctor to appropriately screen job candidates? Or both?


Language does mislead really sometimes.
This reminds me of a Japanese language class I was attending along with my colleagues. The Japanese lady, the faculty, was heard uttering 'f**ked' in a certain context. It is only after probing and chewing a little, we understood that it was 'fact'. Really an example of language being f**ked.
I personally think, people trying to speak language they aren't familiar with, needs to be appreciated for the guts they show in facing embarrassment - of course, it is important that the message is taken care.