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Healthcare across Cultures

English in Medical Education

An intercultural approach to teaching language and values

Peih-ying Lu and John Corbett

reviewed by Catherine Richards

September 2016 | Book Review | Curriculum | Intercultural approach

In English in Medical Education: An intercultural approach to teaching language and values, the authors take a fresh and very contemporary look at the topic of language education in medicine, examining the importance of cross-cultural competence in both language and medical training and discussing the methodological shift towards ‘task-based’ language learning and “problem based” medical training. This is a highly readable, thought-provoking book which any EMP teacher will find useful.

There are nine chapters in the volume covering a variety of themes including an exploration of intercultural communicative competence training and critical cultural awareness in education; a focus on the language of medical communication and professional-patient exchanges; a practical look at the analysis of language and the use of corpora; the use of literature and visual arts in medical education, and a chapter on task design and course design. Each chapter is both theoretical and practical, offering both the ELT/ESP practitioner and the medical trainer food for thought. Chapters contain ‘Activity’ box-outs which encourage the reader to reflect on their own professional situation.

The book is aimed at a large group that, at one end, includes seasoned language specialists without any medical background and, at the other, medical practitioners with little experience or knowledge of language analysis or presentation. This could be its downfall, but the volume is well-balanced between the theoretical and the practical and is supported by current and well-respected research drawn from a range of fields. Lu and Corbett do not shy away from acknowledging controversy or shortcomings — their warning that much television medical drama may not be as useful as other learning resources I welcome.

There are many books concerned with intercultural communication and education currently in print that, in reality, contain little that might be said to be practical or teacher-friendly. Lu and Corbett don’t forget the classroom, the student or the teacher, and they offer a good range of task ideas and activity box-outs that are appropriate for group work or training sessions. Sometimes, however, the brief overview such a book demands results in a rather sketchy summary: the chapter on task based learning is overly simplified, as Lu and Corbett acknowledge, while chapter 5 attempts to cover a vast number of complex areas under the heading ‘Medical Talk’ and is the least cohesive in the book.

These small issues aside, the book is nonetheless very well-written and certain to be of great interest to English teachers working in the medical and healthcare field.