Patient communication with ethnic minorities in Hong Kong: A Medical English as a Lingua Franca (MELF) perspective

Ting, Shawnea Sum Pok. 2023. Patient communication with ethnic minorities in Hong Kong: A Medical English as a Lingua Franca (MELF) perspective. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This qualitative research explores patient communication between ethnic minorities (EMs) of South and Southeast Asian backgrounds and local Chinese healthcare providers (HCPs) in the public healthcare sector in Hong Kong using English as a lingua franca (ELF) – English as a common language among people of different first languages. Within research with EM patients, most attention has hitherto been given to providing adequate translation and interpretation services. While I fully agree that comprehensive language support should be offered to EM patients, the needs of ELF-using EM patients have been neglected. To explore ELF patient communication with EMs and to strengthen this communication, three research questions are set. They enquire into (1) how EMs perceive ELF patient communication, (2) what factors affect their perception, and (3) what possible actions could be taken to enhance this communication. To answer these questions, semi structured interviews with 31 EMs, 13 representatives from support groups assisting EMs, and 18 HCPs (total n = 62) were conducted and examined through reflexive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke’s approach). Seven themes are developed: (1) ELF patient communication is insensitive, (2) HCPs and front-desk workers are disinclined to engage in ELF communication, (3) HCPs and front-desk workers dislike interacting with EMs, (4) HCPs are ready to provide support to ELF-using EMs, (5) there are different expectations and understanding towards language use in public healthcare services, (6) there are different understanding of the institutional practices of the public healthcare system, and (7) there is inadequate support for multilingual and multicultural communication with EM patients. Practically, the findings shed light on enriching the training provided for future and current HCPs, and community services offered to EMs. Academically, the findings enrich and affirm the value of Medical English as a Lingua Franca (MELF) as a new interdisciplinary research domain between ELF and health communication.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Medical English as a Lingua Franca, Hong Kong, ethnic minorities, healthcare communication, reflexive thematic analysis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 March 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2023 17:10

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2023 14:53


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