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Request: Help me help patients from your country by translating a few words to your language.

Dear fellow Duolingo-learners,

As a Dutch medical doctor, I sometimes have to cross language barriers. Most questions can be asked using gestures. Some words however, are harder to say like that.

Therefore my question to you is: - Can you tell me the words you use in your native language to say 'pain', 'yes', 'day' and 'or'?

Dutch: - pain = 'pijn' (pronounce a bit like 'pine' in English, make the i-sound a bit longer: piine - not identical pronunciation, but close enough!) - yes = 'ja' (pronounce: 'ya') - day = 'dag' (pronounce: 'dach', with the 'g' similar to the 'ch' in 'loch') - or = 'of' (pronounce: 'of')

When I used to have a lot of Polish patients, I could ask them 90% of what I wanted to know, simply by combining these words with gestures: Me: point to patient, 'bol'? (=pain) Patient: 'tak!' (=yes) Me: 'bol' -> point to my chest -> 'bol' -> point to my leg -> 'bol' -> point to my stomach, look at the patient like it's a question (=where is the pain?) Patient: points to his stomach, 'bol, bol! :(' Me: I raise one finger 'dzién' (=day), two fingers 'dni' (=days), three fingers 'dni' Patient: raises 5 fingers 'dni' (=I have it since 5 days) Me: point to patient, act like I'm vomiting (=are you vomiting?) Patient: nods his head, raises 3 fingers (=yes, I also vomit, 3 (days?)) Me: act like I'm vomiting, raise 3 fingers 'dni' (=do you mean you vomit since 3 days?) Patient: shakes his head (=no), points to himself, acts like vomiting, raise one finger, acts like vomiting again, raises another finger, acts like vomiting again, raises third finger (=no, I mean 3 times vomiting) Patient: 1 dzién (=since one day) Me: putting my hands repeatedly to my mouth, as if I'm putting food in my mouth, making chewing movements etc., then stop, and act like I'm not hungry, pushing a plate away from me, or acting like I take a bit but it doesn't taste good (=do you have a normal appetite or do you not want to eat; the word 'or' would have been handy here!) Patient: raise 3 fingers 'dni', points to himself, pushes away the plate (=since 3 days I lost my appetite) Etc. After a while I point to myself, then to my stethoscope, then to patient. The patient nods (=Yes, it is okay that you do your examination) During examination I press on the belly in several places, asking 'bol?', the patients nods the most at the place where it hurts the most, and he also points there.

What I want to say is: - If you can use an interpreter, you should do that. - Second best is Google Translate combined with gestures - But in some situations you don't have those, and then these are the most precious words to know (in order of how important): pain, yes, day, or, now, no, and, where, how long, begin, much, good, bad, fever, nausea, medicines, diseases, allergy, diarrhea, urinating, blood, worried, it's okay.

Would you like to share the words you think are most useful in your language (especially the words for 'pain' and 'yes')? When I have a patient from your country I want to be able to help him/her as best as I can, even when an interpreter is not available.

Any other advice is welcome as well! If this attempt to get a nice overview is successful, I might even send it to a journal of Medicine :).

November 10, 2017



I would collate all this on a spreadsheet, with the english words in the 1st column and columns for other languages. If pronunciation is hard (eg, Russian, Greek) maybe the patient can simply read across to the relevant column.

An enharncement would be to have the phonetic pronunciation too



pain- boen

yes- do

dydd - day

or - neu Italian

Pain- dolore

Yes- si

day - giorno

or - se


P.S. I see Duolingo has sticked my sentences together, thereby reducing the readability. My apologies for that. I hope you can still read it.


For increased readability and formatting, Duolingo supports a form of Markdown. For example, you could use bullets (*) to make a list, or put a double space ' ' behind a sentence to go to a newline (without starting a new paragraph i.e. with a blank line in between. (And obviously, you can edit posts =))

Furthermore, good luck with your project! I'd help you with my native language, but as it is Dutch as well that doesn't really help hehe =)


Very cool idea. It maybe wayyyy bigger than DL has room for. It sounds like it could stand alone and be useful for many doctors / patients. Enjoy a Lingot.


pain - sāpes (pronounce like saapes)
yes - jā (yaa)
day - diena
or - vai (vay)
now - tagad (tagat)
no - nē (nee, as in medicine)
and - un
Hope it helps! :)


If you want, you could research into whether something happened with the following post:


It was being organised by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), but I assume it had the blessing of Duolingo, as the post was stickied at the time. At the beginning they were concentrating on medical terms.

Edit: In fact you will see that there are quite a lot of medical translation in the comments, if you scroll down. Also, it links to: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/14258218

Edit: My guess is that most responses were curated into this: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13pAUPoi0oU1cHvfODHYJ8t_Q1LrXhC2zmVQC1plV05M/edit#gid=0



pain = kipu
yes = kyllä
day = päivä
or = tai (yes or no question), vai (which one)
now = nyt
no = ei
and = ja
where = missä
how long = kauanko
begin = alkaa
much = paljon
good = hyvä
bad = paha
fever = kuume
nausea = pahoinvointi
medicines = lääkkeet
diseases = sairaudet
allergy = allergia
diarrhea = ripuli
urinating = virtsaaminen blood = veri
worried = huolestunut

Regarding pronunciation: a, e, i, o, u, ö are close enough to the German ones, v to English, y to German ü and ä to English cat


English -> German (pronunciation)

pain -> Schmerz (sh-mertz)

yes -> ja (ya)

day -> Tag (tahg)

or -> oder (like the English word "odor")


Italian pain- dolore

yes- si

day - giorno

or - o


This is a really great idea - and major kudos to you for going the extra mile to help your patients (and likely to make them feel much more comfortable knowing the doctor has made this effort).

I'm a native English speaker, and the languages I speak well enough to help, there are natives whose information would be more reliable than mine. But... if they don't pop up in the next few days, I'll give it a shot.


There is a very nice little free app called "MetaLanguage" doing exactly that in several (50+) languages (one app for each language). At least I know the ones listing the french words and their equivalent in a foreign language. There are about 30 chapters, one named "doctor", one named "car", one named "weather" etc.

I frequently use the French/Hungarian one.

You should also check "Loecsen", both the website and the app. This one is my favorite.

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