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Mainstream and Alternative Medicine - Monologs
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Mainstream Medicine versus Alternative Medicine - a sample monolog for a B2 and a C1 exam (4-6 minutes, 300-500 words)

listen! Listen to this mp3 audio! The final comments by the teacher are not transcribed here.

Transcript of the 500 words - 5 minutes + bits chopped out

About 1,000 words took me 12 minutes, so I had to cut it down to about 500 words to make it in five minutes. You will probably need less words at your own speed, and that'll be fine!

This is an example of how to tackle a topic that we might be afraid of. This means it's not a model on the content, but a model of how to survive a speaking test imposing a topic and a time limit, and also some textual structure demands.

I would like to speak about health issues focusing on mainstream or conventional medicine and alternative medicine or more precisely, alternative health treatments. *

Health care has improved a great deal for ordinary people who live in societies where there is a public healthcare system. This means we have improved our living standards and also our life expectancy. When people in our industrial-technological societies speak of mainstream medicine today they are referring to different kinds of things, because our concept of health and our resources to take care of ourselves are very varied.

In any case, generally speaking, mainstream medicine is about taking drugs prescribed by doctors to address different kinds of health problems, and about surgery and taking tests in different kinds of healthcare establishments for more accurate diagnosis.** We have also begun to include natural medicine resources, like herbal medicine and homeopathy, and alternative treatments, mostly related to our joints and muscles, including physiotherapy (PT), osteopathy and chiropractics.


But -- Should we include acupuncture from Chinese Medicine, or yoga, from Hindu Philosophy? Should we also include non-aggressive treatments like Bach flowers, iridology, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, reflexology? So far, we all agree these resources can be called "alternative medicine or treatments."

But then -- what about our diets? Can diets and exercise be considered alternative treatments? Today we seem to be obsessed with the relation foodstuffs have with our health. *** In terms of diets, we can actually buy vitamins and minerals at chemist's or drugstores, and all kinds of foods include today all kinds of supplements.


In my experience, it is clear that to deal with pains in one's muscles, back and neck, going to the doctor is not always a good idea – she will prescribe some kind of painkiller that will give you stomachache. I don't know what effect acupuncture might have on the muscle system, though I have heard acupuncture is very effective for all kinds of things, but I do know that when my neck hurts, when my muscles are contracted my PT solves that in one or a few sessions.
I'm more doubtful about Bach flowers, but also about more "medical" options, like homeopathy. I have tried both on various occasions, and I have never been able to say or notice if that worked. In contrast, I have a friend who is a nurse in a state-run hospital, and she has been treating a gynecological problem of hers – a large tumor – with homeopathy for over a decade instead of having surgery. Although she was warned she shouldn't – she could possibly die! – she chose homeopathy instead of surgery and so far she hasn't died.

To my knowledge, in numerous instances, health is an integral issue: psychological-emotional as well as physical factors have to be taken into account. The more choices we have, the more we can adapt resources to our particular cases. People need to find the kinds of treatments that work best with them.


Bits discarded in the third round!
+ The fact that we have become aware of how complex healthcare is means that we know it can't only depend on drug taking: pill taking, one of the major healthcare activities, is not the right or only solution for every single health problem we have. This explains why some mainstream medical treatments are prescribing placebos (a substance that has no physical effects, given to patients who do not need medicine but think they do) and it also explains why some patients are turning their attention to alternative treatments.
++ Consequently, it seems the case that when thinking of human health we need to be aware of two different areas: on the one hand, remedies that tackle psychological and emotional problems and on the other, remedies related to stopping some physical development, especially pain.
+++ Nevertheless, one thing is certain – in the same way it is important to take a painkiller or have a massage or acupuncture when you have a pain somewhere in your body, it is also important to avoid arguing with people you love or work with, and to learn to discuss ideas constructively, creatively, critically, without fear of people not sharing our ideas, because if we avoid hurting other people and ourselves our health has greater chances, because we humans feel much better, much healthier when we collaborate and get along nicely!!

Bits I discarded in the second round!
* I'm not opposing the subjects because I don't see why I should – we humans think better when we increase our choices and not when we make ourselves exclude or discard options. Mainstream medicine needs to combine with alternative medicine if we find that useful.
** – places where you can get your gynecological ecography, mammographies, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a brain scan
*** Leaving out the issue of allergies and ethical veganism, which are complex to speak about, in
**** Finally, we can also wonder about legal and illegal drugs or substances: why are some drugs legal and others, known to be good for us, illegal? The key point with drugs is not about taking them but about what for: why should having a beer, smoking a joint or a plain cigarette to relax be worse for people's health than taking antianxiety pills or tranquilizers? Why should antianxiety pills be mainstream, meditation be alternative, and getting marihuana be illegal?
***** If health is about including our state of mind, our energy to start a day, some people would certainly include in their health praying or meditation. Others would also include tarot reading, hand reading, astrology and seanses (talking to the dead), "remedies" that have helped people of faith to keep their spirits high when they risked sinking into sadness and depression, for instance, before the loss of their loved ones.

Bits I discarded in the first round!
Pointing at how important names are to condition our analyses, we could also tackle the issue saying "natural drugs" or "man-created remedies." Before patriarchal men decided to become doctors and burned healers as witches, women were in charge of healing by using herbs. That was certainly less gruesome than the kind of treatments Men of Science started giving people thereafter, like bleeding patients with different kinds of methods. Today their efficacy has finally been discarded by true scientific research – the kind that doesn't endeavor to prove that women's brains are less capable, like they did for so many centuries before!
"Natural medicine" is also related to communities called "primitive," which is to say, communities with a well-developed natural intelligence – "natural intelligence" being one of the eight kinds of intelligences we have according to Gardner. This kind of communities have always relied in nature to find remedies for their ailments, like women healers did in our societies. Although they have also developed man-created remedies in the form of "healing" rituals. I have my qualms about the efficiency of rituals to make us healthy. I'm much more convinced about the efficiency of things we find in nature! Moreover, the fact remains that today's drug companies also base their production on this knowledge on natural drugs. Recently it was breaking news that there was a "tribe" that knew a kind of herb good to fight cancer, and drug companies rushed there to get hold of that knowledge – not for the sake of humanity, of course, but for the sake of making incredible amounts of money – proven by the fact that they shamelessly neglect minority illnesses and diseases. (Here is another clue to tackling the issue of mainstream or alternative!)