Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hospital Spelling

It was actually just a visit to a hospital clinic.

Previously, we had seen a doctor or two in the Specialist Hospital, but this was the State Hospital, and I was unprepared for the total lack of English. (Everywhere else there is a scattering of English and/or 'Manglish' signs.)

This sign was the first hint of a problem.

(Can you read it? I'm guessing it's the way to the Psychiatry Ward ...)

So inside we go and we find a roomful of people milling, and one of those number announcing machines (all in Bahasa Melayu, of course - time to remember my BM numbers) and a loudspeaker telling people with certain numbers to go to certain numbered counters.

Times like this, it's good to stick out like a sore thumb! There was no number-ticket machine, because a man at one of the counters was guarding it, and he caught sight of me, motioning me over to get a number. Then I joined the crowd, practising saying my number in BM and watching the numbers on the screen.

Finally my number came up and I went to a counter. The chappie wanted me to pay a little money ($20), gave me another number chit and told me my clinic was up on the first floor ...

So we went up the stairs - and that's when the full force of the language problem hit me. So many signs, all in BM in capital letters, and all such big words. Psychiatry wasn't so hard to fathom, so what word would they have on the "eye" clinic. I looked at my number chit and it said "OFTAL" - no help there.

Standing there with our mouths open we looked like sore thumbs again, and a lady came up and offered to help. She led us to the OFTALMOLOGI clinic - DUH!

Everyone looked after me really well after that, they either spoke a word or two of English or gave reasonable hand signs. Until after I had seen the doctor lady and she sent me for an eye photo (to compare with later). A little nurse led me to a room and pointed with her thumb (the way they do here) to a chair in the corner. The lights were off in the room, but I didn't mind as my eyes were all dilated with drops, and I presumed I would wait there for a technician. But after a while I began to feel that I had been deposited in a store room - there was a lot of equipment that didn't seem to be in use. I started trying to work out just how long I should wait before I go looking for someone.

Suddenly the young nurse came back in. She looked at me, and she didn't say anything but I noticed just a slight downward motion with one hand - and then she walked back out. The door quickly slammed behind her but I leapt up and followed her. Back out in the corridor I caught sight of her already some distance away. Again her thumb pointed to a chair along the wall and she glanced back at me. At least I was back in the world of people!

I sat watching a couple of young chaps in white lab coats playing with a computer, and I recognised a troublesome error screen. Occasionally they glanced at me with worried looks. Sooo ... the machine was out of order. The young nurse was called for again and she led me back to the doctor's office where it was explained that I would have to come back another day.

Well, okay, it was kinda fun. My language skills are improving 'sikit-sikit' (a little).

[Thanks, Chew, for correcting my BM!]


  1. You know, I only recently realised that the final consonant is not sounded on BM words like that. When I ask speakers about it, they look all surprised like they hadn't realised they weren't saying the consonant out loud.

    We are learning very slowly, though! Most of the time I need to speak English to people rather than practice my few words of BM.

    So - thanks! (I will now correct it!)