The Language Project

Hello, My name is Shao, I’m a Paramedic and I’m here to help.

It’s amazing just how often I took that phrase for granted.  Every patient I’ve ever walked up to, I’ve said nearly that same greeting.  Hundreds, if not bordering on a thousand patients have heard that, understood, and we were able to carry on a conversation.

Then, you have the moments where you can’t.  I worked in an area where we didn’t have a high immigrant population, but we had a high rate of foreign visitors. Rarely, though, did I have to worry about it.  There was always someone around who spoke Polish, Italian, Spanish, or whatever.  Recently though, I had to go it alone.

Walking into a house for an unresponsive, it became very apparent that no one spoke English.  I took Latin in school and I can muddle my way through Spanish if I really set my mind to it.  I tried my normal, “Yo soy un paramedico…” and I got looked at like I had seventeen heads.  For an entire call, I played charades, trying to convey to the patient and the patients’ family that I wasn’t going to kill them, that what I was doing was in the best interest of them. 

After that call, I had a few others where I had to use exaggerated motions and the stereotypical speaking English louder and slower than I should’ve.  I then made it up in my mind that I would never go into another call without having something to say to any and all patients.

Thus was born ‘The Language Project’.

Talking on Facebook to one of my favorite EMT’s, Brandi, I fleshed out the idea to her; a collection of handy-dandy EMS phrases in as many languages as physically possible with easy to pronounce guides and a print out of a male/female body where they can point to show where they hurt.

In a few weeks, with the help of Brandi and her wonderful friends, we have gotten Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian.  They are very rough drafts; we are always looking to add things.  Anyone who has ANY experience speaking ANY foreign language is asked to help.  Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any additions, subtractions, changes, anything you can think of.  We would like to make this a joint effort from the entire EMS community.

The lists will be posted on this site under their own tabs.  They are available to be printed out and used at will at your services.

More to come on the project!


  1. “Yo soy un paramedico…” and I got looked at like I had seventeen heads.
    Next time try “una paramédica” (a female paramedic). 🙂 You told them you were a male.

    • Medic Trommashere says:

      They were not Hispanic, so it didn’t matter much anyway, but thanks! I will remember for next time.

  2. In the Mexican Spanish word list:
    Could you please change the pronunciation of “bombero” to say “bome-BARE-oh” instead of “bome-BARE-ose”? I thought I had changed that but I guess not.

    (Pronunciation: Soy oon pah-rah-MAY-dee-ko / ? / Bome-BARE-ose

  3. Hey!
    I speak both Hebrew and Spanish (Native tongues) if you would like some advise or tips. I am also in the process of becoming an EMT and eventually a flight nurse. I love reading your blog >_<

    • Medic Trommashere says:

      Feel free to submit whatever you’d like. Anything you can think of that a healthcare professional would need to say to help a patient is great! Thanks for reading!

  4. Shao – sign me up! My Swahili skills are a bit rusty, but if you need help with German (fluent) or Swahili (beginner) let me know! Always glad to help another gal out with a worthwhile project.
    – A. Ranger

  5. This is PRECISELY the reason everyone needs to carry emergency medical information on them wherever they go! And if you are traveling you should obviously have it translated into the language of the country you are visiting.

  6. How can people sign on to help? I know of several multi-linguists who would be very happy to help out.

  7. I’m fluent in Spanish so it adds to my frustration levels when I come across someone that speaks something else. I like your idea of having a little functionality in several languages. Unfortunately, Murphy says that your patient will speak whatever language you aren’t prepared for.

  8. I’ve been thinking of making my own set of these! I look forward to using yours! Thank you for making these available. My Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese are not up to snuff. And playing charades with someone having a stroke is difficult. I’ve tried.
    Did I say thank you, yet? THANKS!

  9. I don’t know if you still need this, but I can help with Uzbek and Russian! I would also recommend having a set for hearing impaired folks, and something to work with those who cannot speak. Knowing some basic sign language can be a HUGE bonus!

    • Medic Trommashere says:

      Sure! Any language would be great! Just send me a quick e-mail so I can send you the list. Feel free to add anything that seems worth it; you never know what someone may need in a pinch.

      Thanks, Lauren!

Speak Your Mind