This paper reports on an empirical research project that assessed educational needs of primary care practitioners for communicating with minority ethnic patients who are not fluent in English. The qualitative study was carried out in general practice settings in a northern inner city locality. Discrepancies are highlighted between patient and practitioner understandings, and between educational models and practitioner views. Educational needs are identified to enhance practitioners' specific skills, knowledge of patient perspectives, and self-awareness. Organisational influences on communication are explored. Key arguments are that "transcultural" educational models should be used critically, and education should enable practitioners to integrate their personal coping strategies with structured practice development planning.