Okay, everybody. Here’s what’s going on. The Spanish paragraph says this:
I was having a doctor from Peru translate the article into English yesterday in his ESL lesson. I understood the last sentence to mean, “Your future is in your hands.” This doctor, however, translated it as, “Your future is in his hands.”
The problem is that the possessive pronoun “su” can mean your or his, depending on the interpretation, so technically either one of us could have been right.
This doctor claimed that our differing interpretation of the pronoun was cultural. We’d been talking before about how in the US, patients are encouraged to ask the doctor a lot of questions and to take an active role in their own health decisions. When I moved overseas for a while, doctors and nurses in the other country were shocked, and at first a little insulted, that I asked for explanations. They just expected me to do what they said because they said so. A typical conversation would go like this:
In the United States, the nurse or doctor would typically walk in with the syringe and say, “This is X. It’s a drug that’s supposed to help you with Y. Some people can’t have it, but since you’re not allergic to Z, it’s a good choice for you. You should expect […], but if you start to feel […] call me up. While you’re on this X, don’t drink any alcohol, and don’t exercise too hard for the first 24 hours. Is there anything you want to ask me about it?”
My student, however, said that in Peru, the doctor is considered just one level below God, and he usually won’t explain anything. He said I interpreted the sentence the way I did because an American’s default assumption is that the patient is in control, and that he understood it the way he did because Peruvians consider the doctor to be in control.