Language, Culture and Medicine: Why I Won’t Say it Aloud
The relationship between language and culture is that ideas, traditions and customs are normally passed on through language. Language is especially important for the maintenance of a people’s culture, and at the same time it is part of it. Culture therefore touches all aspects of life and through culture, humanity exists. Culture is key in the process of attending to patients. Since doctors require a holistic approach which involves not only technical expertise but also other skills including good communication an understanding of the patients. Using the case of Kenya, this study sought to investigate the interplay between culture and language in the management of cancer cases in Kenya, with particular focus on breast, cervical, and prostate cancer -cancer is ranked third on causes of deaths in the country. The study used a qualitative research approach utilizing, interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis to collect data from five counties. Findings show that culture does influence the way cancer cases are discussed and managed. Cultural beliefs, stigma, myths, and taboos engrained in communities do not allow people to talk openly about the disease. Reproductive language is considered at a boo language. Patients are reluctant to disclose to the doctors, symptoms related to reproductive health, and are less willing to undergo the necessary physical exams. The study recommends awareness campaigns geared towards minimizing cultural barriers, and cultural competence for medical practitioners so as to establish trusting relationships with patients of varying cultural backgrounds.
Keywords - Language, Culture, Health