Welcome! Read the latest issue of PROGRESS, featuring civics programs in Virginia. Read PROGRESS

I Don’t Need a Translator

by Mohamad Al Darwish

When I came to the United States, three years ago, I only knew a few English words. But on the day that I had an appointment at the hospital, I was so excited. This was my first appointment at a U.S. hospital. I arrived early, waited a few minutes, then, a nurse came and took me with her. She measured my blood pressure, height and weight. Then, she told me to wait for the doctor to come. A few minutes later the doctor came. She introduced herself to me and asked my name. She was smiling and very friendly. She asked me if I needed an interpreter. I said, “No thank-you. My English is very good.” Actually, it wasn’t, but I wanted to try speaking without a translator. The doctor started asking me questions with a smile and I always answered, “Yes” whether I understood or not. Then, she asked me if I have heroin. I said, “yes” and I smiled. I thought she was asking me if we have Halloween. She said, “What?” I felt her question was different. I asked her, “What do you mean by Halloween?” Then, she called an interpreter on the phone and he told me, “She’s asking you if you do drugs.” I said, “No, no!.” I felt embarrassed. But this was the motivation to learn English. I decided to go to school and learn English and now I don’t answer if I don’t understand.