Medical Translation

Take Note #1 - Mamá Vs Mama


This week we will start the series "Take Note" in which Canopy Innovations will be giving you some tips on the Medical Spanish. If you want to get more insights, of course, you can always check Canopy Speak, the largest library of multilingual medical phrases. To further your knowledge, subscribe to Canopy Learn, the #1 Medical Spanish e-Learning System.

In this post, we will be learning the difference between two similar words: Mama and Mamá. Although they spell the same, they have different meanings.


Me duele la mama = My breast hurts
Mi mamá está enferma = My mother is sick
La mama de mi mamá duele = My mother's breast hurts

Another difference between the two words is the way they are pronounced. In mama, the first vowel is stressed, while in Mamá it is the second one (marked by the graphic sign).

So, next time you have a patient that has issues with her breast or is just bringing her/his mother be aware of these two words, so you don't make any mistakes.

“Intoxicado” : What Can Happen with the Misinterpretation of a Single Word

Spoiler: it has nothing to do with ‘intoxicated’


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Interpretation errors — both big and small — occur when language resource provision is inadequate or when providers have a false sense of their language abilities.

The tragic case of Willie Ramirez regarding the misinterpretation of a single word — “intoxicado” — should serve to fuel action to change the landscape of language services.

Willie Ramirez became quadriplegic as a result of a misdiagnosed intracerebellar hemorrhage that continued to bleed for more than two days as he lay unconscious in the hospital. In the course of the law suit, it was asserted that Willie could have walked out of the hospital had the neurosurgeon been called in earlier. No neuro consult was ordered for two days because the Emergency Room physician and the doctor covering Willie in the ICU erroneously believed that Willie had suffered an intentional drug overdose and had treated him accordingly. The misdiagnosis was based on the physical exam which initially pointed to a drug overdose, and on complete confusion regarding the medical history. At the heart of this confusion, was the Spanish word “intoxicado” which is NOT equivalent to the English word “intoxicated.”

Providing innovative language support for healthcare providers will increase quality of care for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Read about the case of Willie Ramirez here.

Note: This post was first published by Canopy in our old blog in 2015, but remains today one of the most accessed content on our domains.

Canopy at NY Tech Forum

A few weeks ago, we had the honor to be one of the featured companies to present to over 750 people at the New York Tech Meetup, the largest Meetup in the world.