I had the good fortune recently to have been in Southern Spain, or, as so quaintly labeled by the tabloids, the good old ‘Costa del Crime.’ As I was struggling to decipher some of the curiously opaque Andalucian dialect, I found myself reflecting on both the positive joy that language can be, but also the challenges that it can generate.

I was, of course, fully armed with my schoolboy language finesse (smugly hopeful that my faltering French would help unlock the mystery of Spanish for me). Leaving nothing to chance, I also splashed out on one of those “speak a foreign language fluently in 4 hours” CDs. They are the sets that you optimistically put on in the car and then draw in either quizzical or slightly alarmed looks from other motorists who mistake some of your finer flourishes of in-car expression for road rage.

Such CDs also tend to the formal, and in Spanish terms that usually means that the approach, tone and wordplay is Castillian, from Madrid, rather than the working language of any particular region. So, your translation can often still need a translation.

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We generally agree that a picture paints a thousand words, but I would suggest that the inverse can also be true, in that a few well chosen words can paint a significant number of differing pictures – especially in the hands of a craftsman.

Consider for a moment the following offerings:

“I agree with you up to a point.” So, when was “the point”? Maybe the point when the other person first opened their mouth therefore meaning that you didn’t agree with them at all?

What about “I can’t recommend this candidate highly enough.” So is that very highly, or not at all I wonder?

As an ex-teacher, one word that I am particularly sensitised to these days is “lesson”. Whenever I see or hear an official wheeled out to issue some pronouncement on organisational failure or the inadequacies of leadership, I await the inevitable wince of anguish or irritation when the L word is uttered.

It now appears to be a national custom that the word is used to explain away any alleged incompetence, and, while we are assured that “lessons are being/have been learned” we can rest easy in our complacency that the organisation concerned intends to carry on just the same thank you very much…until the next time of course.

The joy of language can sometimes be beautifully crystallised in another national pastime, that of acronym creation and spotting. Whenever I see a swanky job title, I always acronymise it to see if it’s worth a comment or discreet snigger (I was for a time highly amused by the role of Group Operations Director).

Although I jest the use of appropriate language, which is continuing to evolve and develop everyday, it is incredibly important.  Whether it is thinking before one speaks or testing a key message on a particular target audience to ensure it is interpreted in the correct way, it is no easy task.

Hasta luego.

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Simon Rollason

Industry Advisor
Simon Rollason is an NHS business intelligence and transformation manager with many years of experience across a wide range of verticals.

A key member of Highland Marketing’s industry advisory panel, Simon brings valuable industry knowledge that will helps the company to market clients’ solutions to the health service, with the ultimate aim of helping healthcare professionals deliver the best possible care to patients.

Simon is the programme manager for invoice validation and data management services at NHS England Midlands and East, where he is working to address contract management and information governance challenges and opportunities for a consortium of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

“Effective communication can help us to join-up health and social care, make it coherent and optimise resources. Without communication there will be no joining-up, and we will reinforce stovepipe mentalities and isolationist views. Without communication we will have disjointed and dysfunctional care.”
A little about Simon:
  • He started his professional life as a teacher before moving through the financial services and management consulting sectors and then making the transition into healthcare in 2009.
  • He has successfully transitioned a collaborative CCG procurement and business intelligence service to the new NHS operating landscape that came into being following the Health and Social Care Act in 2013.
  • When the opportunity arises he is a keen traveller and walker

Latest posts by Simon Rollason (see all)

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