Does experience change understanding? The effects of personal experiences on patients' knowledge of medical terminology

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    This paper investigates the ways in which personal experience and native language status shape individual medical background knowledge. In this exploratory study, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with native (NES, n=10) and non-native English speaking (NNES, n=7) participants. From the interviews it emerged that personal experiences or personal (emotional) involvement with any kind of medical condition have several effects on an individual’s knowledge and perception of medical terminology. Three main effects were found: 1) Personal experience fosters the retention of medical terms; 2) personal experience can promote the development of deeper underlying knowledge structures for the medical terms in question; 3) personal experience can aid participants in becoming aware of the different meanings health professionals and lay people attach to one and the same medical term. These findings, however, only hold true for NES participants. NNES participants experience many difficulties in medical communication. Most of their problems relate to English proficiency, their respective native language and the unfamiliarity with Western medical practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSelected papers from the 2009 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society
    Subtitle of host publicationproceedings
    EditorsYvonne Treis, Rik De Busser
    Place of PublicationMagill
    PublisherAustralian Linguistic Society
    Number of pages31
    ISBN (Print)9780980281538
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    EventAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference - Melbourne
    Duration: 9 Jul 200911 Jul 2009


    ConferenceAustralian Linguistic Society Annual Conference


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