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June 10, 2009

Communicating With Spanish-Speaking Patients

JAMA. 2009;301(22):2327-2328. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.766

To the Editor: The Commentary by Drs Diamond and Reuland1 and the Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life article by Dr Smith and colleagues2 raised issues around communication with Spanish-speaking patients. There is a tendency to label all Spanish-speaking people or those of a Spanish background as speaking Spanish in the same or similar manner. This may give a false impression that a Spanish interpreter or translator in a medical setting will be able to clearly speak Spanish with all patients. It may also be assumed that the patient will understand whatever kind of Spanish is spoken and that there are no differences in dialect or colloquialism used to report symptoms to medical staff through the interpreter. These assumptions may incorporate a cultural bias.

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