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Do Med schools care about languages?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by abmuk, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. abmuk

    abmuk 5+ Year Member

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    Greetings,

    I plan to minor in French and major in Biology. I attended high school in Francophone West Africa for three years (I am American though). I have heard that Med schools don't care if you speak languages and care more about GPA and the MCAT.

    Is this true? If you stand out from other applicants in other ways doesn't that positively influence their decision?

    Thanks!:idea:
     
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  3. Institute

    Institute 2+ Year Member

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    It depends on the location. More Southwest states look favoribly on students who can speak Spanish/English because of the language barriers posed by non-english speaking patients. Unless you're planning on going to med school in Quebec, Canada, or even perhaps in the New England area, there's really no use for French in the states.
     
  4. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

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    It will probably help you a little but doing Spanish would help you far more.
     
  5. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search 5+ Year Member

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    Right behind you
    I will teach you Spanish for the low fee of $1000/hr. I finally found a way to pay for med school. :D
     
  6. Karina 07

    Karina 07 Banned Banned 5+ Year Member

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    Not to worry, they'll probably at least appreciate the fact that you have "knowledge of other cultures" from your time there :p.
     
  7. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

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    Heck, it better help, I speak 5 and expect to pick up on my 6th this fall...Haven't decided between French and one of the local Native languages (Cree or Blackfoot).
     
  8. stixx

    stixx 5+ Year Member

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    Definitely list them on your application.

    Anything to make you stand out will help, period. Remember you'll be applying with tens of thousands of kids, most of whom grew up in small towns, went to small town colleges, and really have no experience to other cultures period.
     
  9. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    My other language fluencies never came up during interviews. Minors aren't very important and French isn't going to do anything for you in US. However, having lived in West Africa is a great horizon widening experience that med schools might appreciate.
     
  10. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

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    Language skills are fantastic. However, in terms of measuring their impact on your application one would have to take a broader view as others have suggested. Language skills are key to engaging with patients and patients families who speak little or no English. So it reasons that the greater the population in need of those skills the more marketable and useful those skills are.


    I think for you it just helps make you interesting in light of your experience abroad in Africa. Now at such a point in time when you want to apply to the CDC for vaccine work in sub-saharan Africa...boom....you are up on the competition by a long-shot. You get the idea....
     
  11. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I agree with this. Language skills are looked at positively, but French, I'm afraid is one of the least useful languages in the US. Spanish is the most useful foreign language, Russian and some of the Asian languages come in handy in certain cities. So don't expect all that much mileage out of a French minor.
     
  12. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    Also, don't let anyone tell you that French is a lot like Creole. I don't know how many morons I've met in South Florida who say, "You speak French? Great, I've got this Haitian patient..." Language skills are important for physicians. Being able to communicate with your patients is going to be way more important than studying biology for four years.
     
  13. smq123

    smq123 John William Waterhouse Administrator Physician SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    That's true for most of the country, especially Texas, Florida, and California. However, if the OP wants to do work at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP or CHOP) in Philadelphia, French is very useful. There are a lot of West African immigrants in West Philly who speak French. An ER doctor from HUP told me that they almost never get any Spanish speaking patients in the ER, but a lot of French speaking ones. And isn't this true for parts of Boston as well? (I don't know, I'm just asking.)
     
  14. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

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    Heck, I'll take French AND a Native language! I'm Canadian though, for me French might actually be useful one day....you never know where you end up. And I want to learn more about the First Nations culture since I am currently living in an area with a sizeable Native population.

    I thought I was gonna use Spanish a lot, so I studied it in high school, and then I moved to the 90% White Minnesota which has a miniscule Latino population, and there my Spanish went. I can still read mainstream magazines and stuff, but I couldn't place an order at a restaurant in Spanish at this point, haha.:rolleyes: And yet back at the same point in time, I never fathomed living in Canada, so French never even crossed my mind....but now it would be an asset, whether in terms of med (Canadian, of course) or beyond it.
     
  15. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

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    Honestly though, I don't really feel like your entire undergrad career has to be structured around "what medical schools like." If the OP is good at languages, will enjoy his French classes, and will get As that will keep up his cumulative GPA, why trade that for some course that medical schools will supposedly "like" if he doesn't enjoy it and doesn't do as well? Besides as I said, you can't plan for the future along the lines of "I WILL be living in Philadelphia" and such. If 5 years ago someone told me I was going to be living in Canada, graduating with a degree in Japanese Language and Culture, and applying to med school, I would've laughed in their face, because I was 100% confident I would be graduating with a degree in Economics and moving to NYC to work at the likes of Merrill Lynch. But life has its own way of figuring itself out sometimes.
     
  16. etf

    etf Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    med schools would rather you speak spanish than english.
     
  17. Funky

    Funky This space is for sale 10+ Year Member

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    but then if you didnt speak english you would have no chance at any medical school in america only because your verbal reason score would be horrendous
     
  18. SupergreenMnM

    SupergreenMnM Peanut, not chocolate 2+ Year Member

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    Heh, actually most I interviewed at were more excited that I knew hindi than that I knew any spanish :cool:
     
  19. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

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    I'm just terrified they're gonna start bombarding me with Japanese (my major). I'll never forget interviewing for a cab driver job and suddenly realizing my interviewer not only asked me what specialty I intended on pursuing in medical school, but also asked that question in Japanese.

    Talk about unexpected...I'll have to review a bit before my interviews. Nothing worse than an interviewer who's actually familiar with the stuff you're BSing about.:laugh:
     
  20. SupergreenMnM

    SupergreenMnM Peanut, not chocolate 2+ Year Member

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    :lol: that would be funny. I figured there would be a fair chance I'd get a south asian doctor...:p so I brushed up, but nope, a guy from guatamala...
     
  21. dontwakeme

    dontwakeme 2+ Year Member

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    I'm majoring in Chinese :thumbup:
     
  22. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Spanish would be a much more useful second language in Boston.
     
  23. Non-TradTulsa

    Non-TradTulsa Senior Member - Resident 7+ Year Member

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    Agreed. However, I think it ought to be said that having a foreign language minor - any foreign language - speaks well of your ability to think conceptually as well as your desire to get a "classical" education (remember that medicine, for all intents, is a foreign language, too). That does help - and it helps you to stand apart from the herds of plain Biology majors.

    Having said that, though, it is true that Spanish is greatly prized by medical schools in most areas of the United States. Of course, you end up with the same problem that a French speaker has in Creole country - I had years of instruction in Spanish from very well educated women from Peru, Colombia, and Nicaragua. I'm told I speak very nice Spanish for an Anglo with a pleasant South American Highlands accent. Can I understand the mixture of border Spanish and Spanglish-slang that is commonly spoken everywhere in the Southwest? Not much, and it's frustrating. However, patients tend to use more formal language when visiting a physician and I can definitely get through a physical exam. It's an asset.
     
  24. lkychrms19

    lkychrms19 New Member 7+ Year Member

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    In Washington DC, French is the third most spoken language at the home:

    (from Wikipedia's Washington DC article)
    "A 2000 study shows that 83.42% of Washington, D.C. residents age 5 and older speak only English at home and 9.18% speak Spanish. French is the third most spoken language at 1.67%.[19]"


    At my Cornell interview, the medical student there said that knowing French will definitely be helpful. She explained that her friend who speaks French uses it a lot with immigrants at a Brooklyn hospital.
    Also when you live in New York City, if you pay attention (i.e if you speak French yourself), you'll notice that a number of taxi drivers listen to a French radio station or speak French more fluently than they speak English (on the cell phone for example). I met so many immigrants who spoke French more fluently than English when I was in New York - the man from Mali delivering groceries at the supermarket, the man from Morocco working at the falafel restaurant. The women from West Africa in the metro station wishing you happy new year in both English and French....
     
  25. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I promise you that French isn't going to be in the top 3 most utilized languages in NYC. And unlike Spanish, Russian, some of the Asian languages, it's significantly more rare for someone in the US to ONLY speak French. (If the patient also speaks english, even imperfect english, your language skills do not provide as much advantage).
     
  26. jochi1543

    jochi1543 President, Gunner Central 2+ Year Member

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    Don't they offer medical Spanish classes at some schools though? I feel like I've heard of people taking stuff like that during medical school...or am I tripping? If that's true, do they offer the same courses for any other languages?
     
  27. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Absolutely, but it tends to be a fairly bare bones elective and it works a whole lot better if you already have some basic conversational spanish first. Knowing medical terms and what to ask doesn't help you much if your patient goes off the script.

    I am not aware of med schools offering medical oriented courses in other languages because the demographics of the US are such that spanish is the second most spoken language, and the next most spoken language is an extremely distant third.
     
  28. musiclink213

    musiclink213 My room is a mess 7+ Year Member

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    I think it would be a great asset. Even if where the OP ends up, Spanish is more common, knowing another language makes it easier to learn another one, especially if they're both Romance languages, which Spanish and French are. I don't have any studies to back it up, but that is what my Hebrew teacher told me.

    I took Hebrew my senior year of college, after already taking pretty much every French class in my school, and already speaking Russian at home. I picked up French and Hebrew fairly quickly, and witha better accent because you're used to hearing different sounds. There are sounds which are used in one language that may not be used in English, but if you're used to hearing the minute differences, IMO, you can pick it up better.

    Besides, if you interview some small town school, where most of the patient population in that area dates back to teh Mayflower, they'll just like that you add diversity. In the schools in a big area, they really didn't care about what languages anyone spoke, but in the smaller town schools, it was all about how great the diversity of having someone speak another language is.
     
  29. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search 5+ Year Member

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    It is true. I am a native Spanish speaker and I can understand a lot of French, Italian, and Portuguese (especially the last two).

    I'm also in the process of teaching myself another language just for fun, although I doubt anyone would care since it's not very widely spoken in the world. :laugh:
     
  30. BloodySurgeon

    BloodySurgeon Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    I suck at languages. I can't even speak my native language with my parents, now thats just embarrassing. When I go to my gf's house and their grandparents try to speak with me, I return in English and they look at me like Im crazy. I can understand 3 languages fluently, but I can only speak 1--go figure.

    Maybe, I have a tumor on the Broca area of my brain... I should really get that checked out. :rolleyes: Anyways, here is a fun story that may shed some relevence to OP. When I volunteered at the hospital, I said I spoke three languages on my application. Lo and behold, we had a patient at the ICU and they needed me to be the interpreter. I translated everything the patient said to the doctor, but I couldn't do vice versa. The doctor kicked me out and said I was useless and you know what, he was right.

    What good is a language if you don't have any patience you can speak with? French is a useless language in the US IMO.... but your experience in Africa will really make you stand out.
     
  31. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    The med school's aren't going to say "French is not useful, we're not going to let you in". Your ability will fall into the extra skills/talents category along with things like playing an instrument or being able to program computers, etc. All require practice and intelligence and paint a picture of who you are and what your non-science talents are. In other words, the adcoms are probably not going to be wowed that you learned some French but it give them an idea of your unique traits.
     
  32. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    Nah, there's nothing wrong with your brain. "Passive" language skills such as listening and reading are easier to obtain and retain than "active" skills such as speaking and writing. For example, I studied French for 8 yrs growing up, but now I can only say a few simple things whereas I can pick up a lot more of what people are saying. I would never call myself fluent in French and it drives me crazy when people study a language for a few years and claim they are "fluent".
     
  33. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Of course not - all language skills are regarded positively, but some are more sought after than others. You can get more mileage with a more locally useful language.
     
  34. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    Yes, but I doubt a med school's going to make a decision on a candidate based on whether or not their language gets more "mileage". If they look at two equal candidates, would they pick the one that speaks Spanish over the one who speaks French?
     
  35. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    If we are talking about a med school in a city/state with a very large Spanish speaking population, probably. You have to realize that a lot of adcoms are clinicians and cannot help but consider the possible utility, when they read someone's foreign language skills. They know what would be useful in their practice. But there are rarely two otherwise exactly equal candidates, so it won't be a huge issue.
     
  36. Kfire326

    Kfire326 7+ Year Member

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    If you were educated for three years in a french-speaking country, that might help out if you have a lower verbal score....Growing up speaking another language at home helped me out :)
     
  37. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    Here at Miami we give extra application points to someone who speaks a second language.
     
  38. Gobble Town

    Gobble Town Lurkin' up a storm dawwig 2+ Year Member

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    Happened to me! He started, introduced himself, and began the interview in Spanish, and although I could pretty much understand what he was saying and knew how to answer, no way was I gonna continue. :idea: Just learn how to politely say that you're not comfortable doing the interview in 'X' language. I said, "No soy cómodo conduciendo esta entrevista en español," having prepared for this type of situation. I don't know how correct is was, but it went over well.
     
  39. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    I never had an interviewer try that, but a secretary began talking to me in French. The interviewer overheard us and then wrote, "FRENCH" in giant letters on his notes page. I got waitlisted at that school.
     
  40. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    To answer the OP's original question: gpa and MCAT are far more important than your minor or that you are fluent in French or even that you lived in Africa for 3 years.

    Once you are in the pool with other applicants with the same gpa/MCAT then the other factors come into play in fleshing you out beyond the numbers.
     
  41. UMP

    UMP Recovered Under-Achiever 7+ Year Member

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    from our adcomm's thread on the pre-allo page I've heard it's a pretty big deal... might be as impressive as a pretty hardcore EC
     
  42. Seijitsu

    Seijitsu 医学生 7+ Year Member

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    I would have a serious spontaneous bowel movement if I got a Japanese interviewer, and they started talking to me in Japanese.:idea:
     

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