Monday, October 08, 2007


Apparently, doctors have a hard time treating Spanish-speaking patients with asthma because there is no word for “wheeze” in Spanish.

From The New York Times:

According to a survey conducted by asthma specialists at Columbia University Medical Center, which is situated in the heavily Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, there is no precise translation for the word “wheeze.”

In interviews with 39 Spanish speakers, “wheeze” was translated into 12 different Spanish expressions, including “tight chest,” “suffocation,” “asphyxiation,” “snoring” and “congested breathing.” (Nine of the respondents could not come up with any translation at all). While accredited translators came up with the term “ronquido” or “sibilancia,” only 6 of the 39 agreed with that “ronquido” and none agreed with “sibilancia” (even though that seems to be the choice of many readers here; see the comments below).

Wheezing, which according to the National Institutes of Health is a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing that often occurs when air flows through narrowed breathing tubes, is a word central to asthma research and diagnosis.

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