Кобрин Надія (Львів, Україна)

Львівський національний медичний університет ім. Данила Галицького

Секція: Професійна англійська для немовних спеціальностей



Розглядаються особливості навчання англійської мови студентів-медиків для успішного здійснення їх професійної діяльності в умовах іншомовного середовища.

Ключові слова: англійська для студентів-медиків, мовна компетенція, комунікативна компетенція, «зміна парадигми», біхевіоризм, когнітивізм.

Изучаются особенности преподавания английского языка студентам-медикам для их успешной профессиональной деятельности в условиях иноязычной среды.

Ключевые слова: английский для студентов-медиков, языковая компетенция, коммуникативная компетенция, «смена парадигмы», бихевиоризм, когнитивизм.

The specificity of English language teaching to medical students for their successful professional activity in the foreign-language environment is studied.

The key words: Medical English, linguistic competence, communicative competence, ‘paradigm shift’, behaviorism, cognitivism.


       English language in medicine is unique in its nature. It possesses the characteristics of technical and academic language rich in medical terms of Greek and Latin origins, complicated grammar structures, adopted from classical languages singular and plural noun forms, etc. In addition, it is frequently replete with slang, colloquialisms, abbreviations, and acronyms. Therefore, teaching such a specific kind of the language is not a simple task that requires a completely new approach to developing English language proficiency in students of the medical sphere.

        To date there are many researches on the topic that both study methodology of English acquisition and stress attention on various specific narrowly defined issues of the language teaching and learning. But still the problem of English for medical purposes does not lose its actuality, especially taking into account the medical specialists’ necessity to communicate with colleagues for sharing and exchanging the medical knowledge and experience in the process of the world globalization.

       Theory claims and practice demonstrates that Medical English should not be taught at the level and in the same method of Basic English language teaching [2]. It is a complex many-level process. In order to be successful, it should inevitably include: 1) the teacher and students as its participants; 2) well compiled and relevant to medicine teaching material; and 3) an appropriate language teaching methodology that would connect the participants and promote effective acquisition of the material and its fluent usage in a specific health care environment.

      No doubt, the effectiveness of English acquisition depends, to some extent, on the motivation of students, on one hand, and the teacher, on the other hand. The ideal situation is when the tutor is both a health professional and a language instructor as it facilitates explaining medical issues as well as linguistic peculiarities with proper usage of terminology. What students concerns, the best results are usually shown when learners arrive at classroom with basic knowledge and skills in English that will be further enhanced and supplemented while studying medicine through English [2].

        In many cases, however, the reality lacks such opportunities. A large number of medical students possess a low level of linguistic knowledge and skills. Furthermore, due to the specificity and complexity of studies at medical university, they merely lack time for the proper language acquisition. With regard to tutors, they are usually just English teachers unfamiliar with medicine. So it is very crucial for them to be not solely committed to teaching the language as a foreign one but also be interested in medicine itself and study it, in such a way, promoting the use of English as a medium through which students practice medicine.

            Turning to the teaching material, it also plays an important role in the effective language teaching and learning. It must meet the needs of both students with intermediate or advanced knowledge level and those with elementary or pre-intermediate one. Thus, in order to improve the linguistic competence in Medical English in the former and to develop basic linguistic skills in the latter, it is advisable for students to be divided into groups according to the knowledge gradation. But in both cases, medical sphere related texts with basic terminology in anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology and physiology, which provide insight into diseases, procedures, medications, instruments, etc. should be constantly used in the teaching process.

         Text-related exercises are also of great significance. They are intended to fulfill plenty of tasks aimed at developing medical students’ linguistic and communicative competences. Exercises should: 1) enhance phonological aspects of Medical English providing basic reading rules of medical terms of Greek and Latin origin and reliable dictionary sources to find correct pronunciation; 2) teach morphological issues to arm medical students with means of the identification, analysis and decoding of meanings of Latin and Greek roots and affixes which constitute most medical terms; 3) develop syntactic comprehension to differentiate between grammatical and ungrammatical sentences; 4) improve semantic comprehension, i.e. the ability to interpret the non-literal meaning in a given utterance; 5) enable students to understand both implicit and explicit meanings of words in a text; 6) teach to recognize and interpret different figures of speech and stylistics used in medical texts (especially when dealing with socially inappropriate styles such as medical slang); and 7) develop communicative competence that helps future medical specialists use and respond to the language appropriately taking into account the setting, topic and relationship between communicating people (doctor-doctor, doctor-patient, doctor-audience, etc.) [1].

           The participants of and the material for Medical English teaching process would always be apart from each other if not connected by the proper language teaching methodology. Melodie Hull, a nurse educator, a language consultant and the author of practical books for health sphere workers, believes that “Medical English should be taught from the perspective of medicine and health care firstly and foremost while reinforcing vocabulary acquisition, grammar and structure secondly” [2]. Thus, modern educators usually apply a new methodology, so-called ‘paradigm shift’ in the language teaching, a combination of behaviorism and cognitivism as the chief methods of language acquisition.

           English language teaching based on behavioral psychology is known to focus on stimulus-response-reinforcement as a method of promoting learning. During the Medical English Course, the material is presented and studied with the purpose of increasing students’ skills in the language accuracy. The method focuses chiefly on repetition without due attention to stimulation of students’ thinking and analyzing the language in the other than the structured and memorized stimulus-response form. In such a manner, medical terminology is learnt with little application to real medical practice.

         To eliminate the drawback and to optimize the teaching process, behaviorism is combined with cognitivism, in such a case ‘paradigm shift’ occurs. Cognitive learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge and skills by mental or cognitive processes. It means that medical students may acquire the language by listening, reading, speaking and writing on various medical topics with simultaneous understanding and internalizing the rules of the language’s structure and applying them to practice [3]. Lessons of Medical English, therefore, should not be centered on ‘the language rules’ studying but must contextually and experientially base on medicine in order to provide students with means to use the language immediately. Moreover, classes have to be interactive stimulating learners to exploration and discovering of English through interesting discussions on medical topics. The teacher here performs the role of ‘conductor’ who helps fill the gaps in students’ linguistic knowledge by explaining relevant rules.

            As a conclusion, teaching English for medical purposes should be aimed at developing students’ appropriate level of the language education for a successful communication in English-speaking medical environment. Judging from the practical point of view, it is mostly achieved with the help of developing communicative competence on the basis of acquiring linguistic knowledge and skills through cognitive approach to the language teaching and learning.



  1. Canale, M.; Swain, M. Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. [Electronic resource]. – 1880. – Mode of access:
  2. Melodie Hull, Changing the Paradigm for Medical English Language Teaching. [Electronic resource]. – 2006. – Mode of access: http: //
  3. Theodore S. Rodgers, Language Teaching Methodology.[Electronic resource].–2001. – Mode of access:

Відомості про авторів: Кобрин Надія Зіновіївна — викладач кафедри іноземних мов Львівського національного медичного університету  ім. Данила Галицького.

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