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East Mediterr Health J. 2020 Feb 24;26(2):233-238. doi: 10.26719/2020.26.2.233.

Language barriers to studying medicine in English: perceptions of final-year medical students at the Arabian Gulf University.

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Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, College of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Arabian Gulf University, Manama, Bahrain.
College of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Arabian Gulf University, Manama, Bahrain.


in English, Arabic, French


English is the language of instructions in many medical schools in the Arab world. Its use may create a language barrier and adversely affect an individual's learning and later professional life.


This study examined the views of final-year Arab medical students of a language barrier and its effect on their learning and academic performance, and their language preference for medial education.


All final-year medical students (n = 142, 62% females) at the Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain, were invited to respond to a self-completed questionnaire. Differences in responses according to English proficiency and sex were assessed.


Of the 142 students, 99 (70%) responded. Most students did not feel a language barrier irrespective of their proficiency in English (P = 0.088). Most respondents did not think that language issues made studying more difficult, although there was a significant difference in responses between students considered proficient in English and those less proficient (P = 0.005). Most students (82%) were not aware or were not sure of medical terms in Arabic, but 66% were confident that they would be able to communicate with patients in Arabic. About half of the students (51%) supported medicine being taught only in English and 36% supported teaching in Arabic and English.


Most students thought that learning in English did not affect their academic learning and performance. However, a good proportion supported being taught medicine in Arabic and English.


Arab world; academic performance; language; learning; medical education

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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