Minorities around the world are struggling to keep up with the enormous amount of information, guidelines, and government dispositions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
With daily updates, modifications, denials, and developments, those who do not have access to live, reliable sources in their mother language are often confused and might not adopt the best safety measures to contrast the diffusion of the virus.
This is especially true in countries with culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
Medical Interpreting in the US
With almost one million cases of COVID-19 and more than 53,000 deaths, the United States is by far the most severely struck country in the world.
Many of the patients currently under treatment in US hospitals do not speak English as their first language, and the language services in times of crisis are not always up to standards.
As reported by the New York Times, overworked healthcare providers often can’t be assisted by on-site interpreters, as there is a scarcity of personal protection equipment. Thus, doctors and nurses often resort to over-the-phone interpreting, which does not take into account the important non-verbal elements of human interaction.
Over-the-phone interpreters find themselves rushed to communicate dramatic news to the patients without even seeing their faces. Moreover, hospitals are overcrowded and full of noise, which makes phone communications even more difficult.
Language Minorities and Coronavirus
Getting multilingual Coronavirus updates is just as important as high-quality medical interpreting. Having access to the latest guidelines to avoid the contagion and have regular updates from someone that sounds and looks like you can mitigate the anxiety and loneliness related to the lockdown and avoid dangerous behaviors bred by ignorance.
In Arizona, where 30% of residents are Hispanic, official websites related to the coronavirus pandemic were initially not translated in Spanish. Eventually, the most important pages were added in both languages to the page.
Mexico is also facing communication challenges with its indigenous communities. Reuters reports how Zapotec-speaking communities in the mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca got access to information about Coronavirus only at the beginning of April 2020. While the number of positive cases is still relatively low, health & safety guidelines were diffused only thanks to community radios which transmit in the local language.
The UK is also facing the same problem with its diverse linguistic landscape. Dr. Samia Latif, a consultant in Communicable Disease Control, is striving to create multilingual resources to inform the population about the issues related to COVID-19. She also personally recorded a podcast to give reliable and clear information to UK Urdu speakers. Her mission is to communicate how precautionary measures can save lives.
Multilingual Resources Against Coronavirus
Doctors, interpreters, and translators around the world are well-aware of the dangers of language isolation during this pandemic. This is why many initiatives have taken place to overcome the challenge of global multilingual communication.
Doctors of the World, an independent humanitarian movement working to empower excluded people to access healthcare, put on their website a series of instructions to avoid contagion written together with the British Red Cross, and available in 49 languages.
Langpros is playing its part by offering Video Remote Interpreting Services to hospitals and government offices fighting against COVID-19 in the UAE. Video Remote Interpreting is the best solution to provide top-quality interpreting services while maintaining social distancing.