Case Study: ‘Take Care’ – A Health Care Language Guide for Migrants in 17 Languages

According to the Language Rich Europe research, the top provision of multilingual services is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the tourist sector, with the most widely offered language being English. However, to what extent do cities look at the needs of their inhabitants before deciding which languages to offer and in which services? One of these needs is highlighted by the Language Rich Europe case study on the European Commission-funded project ‘Take Care,’ which seeks to:

[make] health care more accessible and effective for migrants who do not speak the language and are not familiar with the culture nor with the health care system in the host country

The case study highlights the importance of this, stating that the consequences of poor health can affect employability, educational achievement, social integration and job satisfaction, to name a few.

The main product of the project is a Health Care Language guide which provides methods for language learning based on the needs and experiences of the target groups, language tools on health care, and information on the health care systems in each country.

The project is currently being run in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugual, Romania and Spain, but language materials will be available on the project website in up to 17 languages for use by groups from other European countries.

For more information on this and other projects, and to submit your own good practice case study, visit the Language Rich Europe website.

Languages are good for the brain!

Last time I posted about research into the effects of age on language learning. More research has since been brought to my attention – all related in some way to the effect languages can have on cognitive processes.

One article published by the Guardian (Being Bilingual may delay Alzheimer’s and boost brain power) explains how two separate research studies by psychologists Ellen Bialystok, York University, Toronto and Judith Kroll, Penn State University, reveal that being bilingual can improve your brain’s performance, with benefits including multitasking and even delaying the symptoms of Alzheimers:

“Being bilingual has certain cognitive benefits and boosts the performance of the brain, especially one of the most important areas known as the executive control system,” said Bialystok[…].

“We know that this system deteriorates with age but we have found that at every stage of life it functions better in bilinguals. They perform at a higher level. It won’t stop them getting Alzheimer’s disease, but they can cope with the disease for longer.”

Meanwhile the Stanford magazine’s article You Say Up, I Say Yesterday features research by cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky which demonstrates that the languages we speak may affect the way we think:

“Boroditsky’s research suggests, for example, that the mechanics of using a language such as English, which tends to assign an agent to an action regardless of the agent’s intent, also tends to more vividly imprint that agentin the speaker’s memory. Other linguistic differences help young children in aboriginal cultures achieve powers of navigation that would confound a Harvard professor. She is amassing a body of intriguing and creative evidence that language influences how its speakers focus their attention, remember events and people, and think about the world around them. And these influences may provide insight to a given culture’s conception of time, space, color or even justice.”