Visiting the Doctor

Speaking Spanish at the clinic in Tenerife

When you consider the lengths that the UK has gone to in order to ensure that practically every one and their Aunty living in the UK can be spoken to in their native tongue, some expats find it a bit galling to go to the doctor here in Tenerife and have to speak Spanish. I am not one of them. While my Spanish is deplorable – that’s mostly because I ‘m thick and not because I haven’t tried to learn the lingo.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect someone living here to at least make an attempt at the language, do you? In fact I think it is a privilege to be able to send my two kids to Spanish state school. Speaking both English and Spanish from an early age is good for their brains and their future. It is also great for me, because when I find myself in a Spanglish knot they are on hand to help me unravel it.

In Tenerife, the locals don’t seem to mind that much if you mangle the language a bit. It’s not like in France where a shoddy French accent will make you as welcome as a maivais odeur. Well, most locals won’t mind. One place that you do need to either speak Spanish or bring a Spanish speaker with you is at the clinic.  It is not at all unusual for the doctors that are treating you to be able to speak English perfectly well. They just do not see why they should if you haven’t gone to the bother of picking up a few basics.

So… here are a few useful phrase for visiting the doctor in tenerife.

Doctor, Doctor, I have a pain in my…

(Pain equals dolor so if all else fails just squeak ‘dolor’ and point to the sore bit. )

  • I have a headache – Tengo dolor de cabeza
  • I have pain behind my eyes – Tengo un dolor detras de los ojos
  • I have chest pain – Tengo un dolor en el pecho
  • I have a pain in my stomach – Tengo un dolor de estomago
  • I have a sore throat – Tengo dolor de garganta
  • I have a backache – Tengo dolor de espalda

Note: All of the above can also use ‘me duele’ as in ‘me duele la cabaza’. The difference is that the first means I have pain, the second means it hurts… so I have a headache / my head hurts. 


You may want to describe the type of pain:

The pain is continuous – El dolor es continuo

The pain comes and goes – El dolor es intermitente

I feel dizzy / faint. – Me siento mareado.

I have a headache  (show where ) – Tengo dolor de cabeza aqui.