Getting over the language problems in Zambia – and Africa?

There are seven official languages besides English in Zambia. Add to that non-English speaking doctors coming from other parts of Africa, Cuba, Russia or China and communication between doctors and nurses as colleagues or with patients is very difficult.

In 1996/1997,  I conceived the idea that a list of commonly used health terms and phrases might be translated into some of the local languages used around Lusaka. Others consulted were enthusiastic and Dr. Lenny Rhine (USA) made the results available on the University of Zambia website. The project eventually lapsed as it relied on busy volunteers (including the Dean of Medicine). Nevertheless much sterling work had been done by medical students, doctors, family members and others.

There the matter might have rested had it not been for the discussion list HIFA2015, which made possible contact between me and Simon Andriesen of Translators-Without- Borders. Now the words and phrases have been collected into a new spreadsheet with three tabs: Diseases, Body Parts, and Doctor-Patient (conversations) though some work on the currently included languages (including Swahili) still needs to be done.

This is a free interactive project, eventually it is hoped to include all the major African, and world languages. Is there anyone out there who would volunteer to translate the terms and phrases from other major African languages?

Kenneth L Chanda (coordinator for Zambia)


About jgreigshaw

I work with Partnerships in Health Information which promotes partnership between libraries in Africa and the UK with an emphasis in African leadership. I have visited Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia though Phi has contacts in many more African countries.
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