I learned mandarin out of interest, and till now, I’ve still felt that my Mandarin is still extremely limited.
Words in my vocabulary were probably limited to basic things like “我很 高兴认识你” （I’m pleased to meet you) and “你的电话号码是什么？” (what is your telephone number?)
I never expected to conduct an entire medical history in Chinese!
I tried to ask questions in English, which were met with a blank stare. “You speak Mandarin?” she asked me.
I knew I couldn’t avoid it. So, I replied reluctantly “我的中文不太好” （My Chinese isn’t that great.)
In the end, it was a great learning experience, and a chance to test my Chinese out. The patient understood my mandarin to a large extent, and I was able to tease out the main reason for her presentation; namely, that she had numbness and tingling of her right arm, secondary to repetitive manual labour as part of her farming work.
Performing the Tinel’s test and Phalen’s test helped me to confirm the likely diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, which I couldn’t translate in Chinese, but for which the use of my $2 Chinese dictionary saved me a ton of effort.
I learnt a new word that day “麻痹“ (numbness). And that patient taught me that my mandarin is better than I thought it was. 2.5 years of mandarin, and I could conduct a basic medical interview. Now, that made me very happy 🙂