How Translation Services Helped In The Fight Against Covid-19
The world has undergone a lot of rapid change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and translation services are not left out. While some countries might experience one crisis or another over the course of the year, COVID-19 was different. A worldwide outbreak of an extremely dangerous virus requires a concerted global response. This means efficient, fast and most importantly accurate communication is important. Billions of people require access to public health information in a language they understand. This article will discuss how translation services and the translation industry helped in the fight against COVID-19.
How Translation Services have Helped in the Past
In 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic hit the world and infected around 500 million people. This number accounted for a third of the world’s population at the time. Approximately 50M people perished, 2% of the world’s population, during that time. This public health catastrophe taught us hard lessons and caused the world to collaborate. Therefore, the translation industry created unprecedented scientific techniques to deal with any pandemics that happen in the future.
The information and data sharing amongst various countries were seen as an essential tool in the worldwide efforts against pandemic and epidemic illnesses. The Spanish Flu made it clear that rapid distribution of data to pertinent parties was pivotal. Research units, hospitals, universities and medical institutions could benefit from this rapid communication to save lives.
The Emergence of Covid-19
Now a century later, a new global pandemic has emerged. The first cases of COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 20th of January 2020. From that moment, both the WHO and China started sharing information concerning the virus with the world. And as the virus spread to other nations, so too did, they begin sharing information and advice. This does make one wonder: how was all of this information communicated effectively? It was through translation.
The very first tool against the virus was data and information sharing, and that meant language services were placed on the frontline. People from different nations need to understand safety protocols such as handwashing and social distancing. They also need information on what to do when they get sick. This puts language translation at the front line of the battle against the virus.
People must know about changes in lockdown measures, furlough schemes, unemployment benefits, housing rights, etc. To pass on all of this information is by no means an easy feat. This is especially true when you consider that over 700,000 people in the United Kingdom don’t speak English fluently. Just because they don’t have a grasp of English doesn’t mean they should be uninformed. Moreover, there are over 300 languages spoken in the City of London. All of this shows how the translation industry is important in such a time.
With the pandemic rampaging on, translation services needed to step in to translate public health information into various languages. And while accuracy in language translation is essential, it is more so when undergoing medical translation.
What more can translation services do beyond COVID-19?
The changes COVID-19 brought to the world didn’t stop at just health and medicine. As a result of lockdowns, more people are spending time working from home. The way we work has changed seemingly forever. We have had to switch from casual meetings and face-to-face events to online correspondence.
Video is now the most crucial content form on the internet and it has become a communication tool for organisations and businesses. Therefore, providing language services to businesses such as transcription and voiceover can be effective. In fact, the pandemic has transformed how we operate, and translation services have been at the forefront of this change.
Why not use Machine Translation for Language Translation?
Some proponents of machine translation would claim that it has made leaps and bounds. However, the truth is when it comes to COVID-19 and medical translation, accuracy and context are paramount. While it might be easy to translate normal or instructional texts using Google Translate, machine translation lacks the nuance human language services have.
An example of a lack of nuance is the Japanese translation of the phrase “wash your hands”. Google Translate provided a result that, while technically grammatically correct, lacked the necessary nuance. The resulting language translation was in a way a parent might talk to a child. This might be fine, but when the phrase is used on a poster aimed at adults, it would backfire. To adults, it might come across as condescending or patronising, thereby reducing compliance.
Another issue with machine translation is that it is unavailable for certain language translations. The most popular translator Google Translate supports just over 100 languages out of over 7000 languages in the world. And while less than 2000 people speak 40% of the languages, machine translation cannot reach everyone.
For this reason, translation services are much better equipped with widespread language translation. It takes translation services staffed with actual people versed in language services to provide information. This information is vital and needs to get to everyone as it can help reduce the risk of the pandemic. To this end, the translation industry had to make the information available in various languages.
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