Studying Spanish

I’ve been getting several emails lately on resources for medical Spanish, so I thought I’d not re-invent the wheel.

First things first: I try to keep an updated list of my all-time favorite resources here. You should check it out, there’s some good stuff there. If you think there’s anything I should add, let me know!

Grammar and Vocab Basics & Dictionaries: I really like Duolingo and Fluencia as good beginner-level review of vocab and grammar. is my preferred online dictionary, and they have a grammar review section as well. I haven’t used this site much, but a quick browsing of Conjuguemos looks promising for more grammar review–they have four “por vs. para” exercises, which is always my nemesis!

I have a couple of Larousse apps as well for my iPad and iPhone…I like using the Spanish-Spanish dictionaries whenever possible! I have a little Medical Spanish app on my phone as well, to look up quick vocab and phrases…sometimes I’ll just browse phrases while on the bus or when I have a few spare minutes.



Medical Spanish Texts: McGraw-Hill’s Spanish for Healthcare Professionals has been my go-to…I like how it mixes grammar and thematic vocab, and it also gives a variety of vocab based on colloquial use (usually noted by location: Mexico, Spain, Caribbean, S.America).

The Yes/No Medical Spanish is also useful…but for basics, not for developing fluency in conversation. It’s geared towards being able to do a really basic exam and history, by asking yes/no questions. Of course, the first thing you’ll learn in nursing school is that open-ended questions are the preferred method of establishing rapport, or “therapeutic communication” as the nursing lingo will have it.

Online Audio: I love Batanga–it’s a Spanish-language version of Pandora. Great way to be introduced to new musicians. I also listen to Radio Bilingüe for news and music. They have a great 15-minute weekly news podcast that’s really good, and usually it’s slow enough that I can understand most of it. Much better than BBC Mundo, which goes way too fast for me!

Classes: Honestly, I think in-person once (preferrably twice) a week class is the best way to deepen Spanish if you’re not a native speaker. At least for me, I need the consistency–and the knowledge that I’ve made a financial investment in my learning–to help keep me motivated.

If in-person classes are not an option, another possibility is online tutoring, whether with someone you know, or through a school. I went to Mexico last year and studied for three weeks in Cuernavaca, a city known for its language programs. It’s not a beach town, but there are many lovely things about being in a smaller, less touristy city. I ended up at CETLALIC, a super awesome, progressive Spanish-language school. They’re inspired by the work of Paulo Freire, are LGBTQ-inclusive (all their home stay families go through a training before they’re allowed to participate), and they also do online weekly Skype lessons for $20/hr, which I’ve been doing on and off as my schedule allows. I can’t recommend them highly enough! In fact, I’m headed back in June for a quick week of brush-up, and hope to return for a longer three-week stint again in September.

The Bottom-Line: It sounds cliché, but try to read, speak and listen to at least a little Spanish every day. I challenge myself to try and explain the pathophys or pharm stuff I’m learning in Spanish (to imaginary patients if I don’t have Spanish-speaking ones to work with). It’s an art to be able to not only translate drug info but also make it understandable. How does insulin work, in Spanish…GO!

If you can, start a conversation group. It can be hard to keep up in school, but when you can, it’s worth it. Habla, habla, habla, cada día!

What are your favorite resources? How do you find ways to practice your Spanish every day? Have any study abroad/language programs you’d recommend? Share them in the comments here, on Facebook, or @radmidwife and I’ll add them to my list!



{en español} 1: Las alergias


Esta mañana yo tenía una leccíon de español por Skype con la escuela CETLALIC. La escuela está ubicada en Cuernavaca, México y yo estudiaba allí esta primavera por tres semanas. Ahora, estoy siguiendo con lecciones por Skype. Además, este otoño voy a empezar una clase de español medica, pero yo puedo platicar de cualquier tema con mis maestros de CETLALIC.

Por ejemplo, esta mañana, yo hablaba un poco de una prueba de alergia que yo había tenido recientemente. Aprendí un poco de vocabulario nuevo que me gustaría compartir con ustedes sobre las alergias:

Cosas que pueden causar una reacción:

  • el pasto (grass)
  • el álamo (cottonwood)
  • la ambrosía (ragweed)
  • el moho (mold)
  • el hongo (fungus)
  • el polvo (dust)
  • el polen (pollen)
  • las cacahuetes (peanuts)
  • la penicillina (penicillin)

La reacción puede causar estos síntomas:

  • escozor (to sting)
  • picar (to itch)
  • un sarpullido/la erupción (a rash)
  • asma/respiración dificultosa (asthma/difficulty breathing)
  • choque (shock)
  • una garganta cerrada (sore/closed throat)
  • los ojos llorosos (watery eyes)
  • una nariz constipada (stuffy nose)
  • una nariz congestionada (congested nose): cuando hay mucho

¿…y mi nueva palabra favorita? ¡Es…OTORRINOLARINGÓLOGO! That would be an otorhinolaryngologist


As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t get much of a vacation this September. But I’ve been trying to soak in the quiet moments of relaxation when I can. Yesterday I went on an overnight camping trip with a group of friends from nursing school. It was, well, a bit ridiculous, actually. We were up at about 3,600 feet and yep, it was raining. Go figure. We made the best of it (thank goodness for firewood!!) and there were many moments of hilarity. It’s the kind of trip we’ll all look back on fondly in a few weeks when we’re eyeball deep in clinicals.

I feel like I should be preparing somehow for fall term. Our clinical is in chronic care and I’ll be on a urology floor one day a week. There’s going to be a lot thrown at us in these first few weeks. And, truth be told, I didn’t do so hot on my patho final last term. But I just can’t bring myself to actually sit down with the books. So, maybe I’ll get around to it this weekend on our getaway to the coast…or maybe I’m just going to try that self-care is the most important thing right now.

I have been mulling over some new features for the blog this fall, however, and one is already in the works. I’ll be taking a medical Spanish class on Monday nights, which I’m really, really excited about. I have the lofty goal of graduating as a midwife capable of providing care in Spanish. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I think I have a solid foundation. I studied it in college and spent a spring in Costa Rica. I’ve taken classes off and on since and was in Mexico this spring, which was a really refresher. I’m hoping this focused class will help strengthen my medical vocab and assessment skills. To help me practice, I’ve decided to have a new weekly feature, {En español} to give me a chance to review what I learn.

I’ll also be writing about my clinical experiences (being ever so mindful of HIPAA, of course. Making’s of a Nurse has a great policy I plan to follow as well.

Here’s to the last week of vacation! The weather may be turning, but all the better to cozy up with some books (¡en español, por supuesto!), a cup of tea and some slow, deep breaths before we dive back in.