ESL for Medical Purposes

Making an Appointment with the Dentist or Doctor

dentist and patient
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In teaching English and a Second Language (ESL) or English as an Alternative Language (EAL) students how to properly communicate in English, oftentimes specific examples will help them to understand the dynamics of English grammar and usage at play in real life circumstances, though it is important to also emphasize the technical rules associated with each grammatical situation.

One such example of a situation an ESL or an EAL student may encounter outside of school is scheduling an appointment at the dentist—or doctor, but it's best to keep these types of exercises simple and one-dimensional to present the clearest message to students.

In this scenario, the teacher should begin by playing the role of the dentist office assistant, mining answering a phone that the student, the patient, should voice. 

ESL Dialogue for Practicing Scheduling Medical Appoints

Dentist Office Assistant: Good morning, Beautiful Smile Dentistry, this is Jamie. How may I help you today?

Patient: Good morning, I'd like to schedule a check-up.

D: I'd be happy to do that for you. Have you been to Beautiful Smile before?

P: Yes, I have. My last check-up was six months ago.

D: Great. Can I get your name, please?

P: Yes, of course, sorry. My name is [student's name].

D: Thank you, [student's name]. Which dentist did you see on your last check-up.

P: I'm not sure, really.

D: That's OK. Let me check your chart... Oh, Dr. Lee.

P: Yes, that's right.

D: OK... Dr. Lee has time next Friday in the morning.

P: Hmmm... that's not good. I've got work. How about the week after that?

D: Yes, Dr. Lee has sometimes open. Would you like to suggest a time?

P: Does he have anything open in the afternoon?

D: Yes, we could fit you in on Thursday, January 14th at 2.30 in the afternoon.

P: Great. That'll work.

D: OK, thank you for calling Mr. Appleman, we'll see you next week.

P: Thank you, bye-bye.

Key Phrases for Making Appointments to Emphasize

The key takeaways from this exercise are the phrases that one might encounter at a doctor or dentist's office that may be confusing to new English learners like "which dentist did you see?" or "we can fit you in," which makes no sense in the literal interpretation of the phrase.

The most important phrase for an ESL student to learn here, though, is "I'd like to schedule or make an appointment," but it's also important to be able to understand the response, like if the office assistant had said "I wish I could help" as a rejection—an ESL student may not understand this means there is nothing that assistant can do to match that person's schedule.

The phrase "check-up" and "have you been to Dr. X's before" are both unique to ESL students because they present a colloquialism commonly used to describe situations specific to visiting a doctor or dentist.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "ESL for Medical Purposes." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Beare, Kenneth. (2021, July 30). ESL for Medical Purposes. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "ESL for Medical Purposes." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).