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The patient had just undergone a cesarean section, and now was struggling to put words to her pain in her native Taiwanese. The physician making rounds, Natasha Mehandru, was used to communicating with patients who didn’t speak English as a first language at her county hospital in Phoenix. But this time, calling in an interpreter by phone wasn’t working.

“The service was not really good,” she said — and soon, she realized the patient and the interpreter weren’t even speaking the same dialect. “It was difficult to communicate, even with the interpreter.”

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