Linguistic barriers at a Malawian referral hospital

  • Gregory H Kamwendo University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana


The paper discusses a small segment of the findings of a sociolinguistic study that was conducted at a Republic of China-funded referral hospital located in the predominantly Chitumbuka-speaking Northern Malawi. The main objective of the study was to identify linguistic barriers to communication that existed at the hospital. Although the official policy in Malawi provides that expatriate medical staff must be competent in English for them to be allowed to practise, the study's findings point to the fact that additional knowledge of at least one of the local lingua francas is an added advantage. This is the case since the majority of the patients do not speak English, and as a result, ad hoc interpreters have to be used. The paper illustrates the problems of having English as one of the lingua francas at a referral hospital in a so-called English-speaking African country.

Lwati: A Journal of Contemporary Research Vol. 2 2005: 71-83

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eISSN: 1813-2227