RGCL Anniversary Highlights, Day 11

Published on Aug, 22 2022 by RGCL.

The TELL-ME project

For today’s anniversary highlight we look back to the ambitious European TELL-ME project (Towards European Language Learning for Medical Professionals), coordinated by RGCL on behalf of the University of Wolverhampton.

This project was carried out back in 2012, when the UK was still a fully committed EU member! A key European Union (EU) priority is to create ways of aiding citizens’ mobility. Promoting easy access to high-quality healthcare and enhancing cross-border healthcare are priorities in the European Parliament. With all the benefits of this mobility, it is vital to keep a high standard of medical treatment, and crucial to providing this level of treatment is high-quality doctor-patient communication. Studies show that if patients misunderstand health-related issues, serious implications can result as well as increased healthcare costs. The problem is greater when there is a language barrier. This must be removed to ensure more effective health services.

TELL-ME aimed to do this by developing materials to teach vocationally-specific language to healthcare professionals and help them to communicate at work. To do this a consortium of three universities and four varied medical operations, all involved with training, were carefully assembled. 

The languages targeted by the project, English, Spanish and German, are among the five most spoken languages in Europe, so patients from one EU country seeking medical treatment in another will probably understand one of them. So our project provided self-study material for medical English, Spanish and German intended specifically for medics. The package involved a range of products including work-related language exercises, self-assessment tools and an interactive dictionary of key vocabulary and concepts. These have been tested out on trainees by the medical partners and disseminated to key national medical policy makers.

A screenshot of the TELL-ME project website
A screenshot of the TELL-ME project website

The project was not all plain sailing. At that time the NHS West Midlands Strategic Health Authority was going through a transformation plan worth billions of pounds, and as a result, could not dedicate resources to this project. Some challenges among the partners also appeared, due to the fact that everybody wanted to deliver the best project. In the end, despite those setbacks, the project was successfully delivered. This is an example of the materials developed by the project:

TELL-ME video
Example of the materials developed by the TELL-ME project (YouTube video, click to watch)

RGCL’s Dr Le An Ha said:

“I’ve always remembered the TELL-ME project with fondness. For me it was a time when anything was deliverable (pun intended). Sitting in Paris Du Nord, on the way to a TELL-ME meeting in Germany, I tele-conferenced with partners on another important project… visiting University of Saarlanders, drinking German beer, eating in-season blonde asparagus, and drinking proper mint tea, one that left actual cool sensation in the back of the mouth, were a few highlights of a typical TELL-ME trip.”


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