‘History’s biggest translation challenge’ . . .
For those who speak marginalized languages – often Indigenous or ethnic minority communities – getting timely and authoritative information on COVID-19 can be difficult. The Asia Pacific is home to more than half of the world’s Indigenous languages, and governments and advocacy groups in the region have made efforts to address problems related to translation and interpretation. In India, a grassroots organization has published information sheets in 12 languages, many of which are spoken by Adivasis – Indigenous tribes in the Indian subcontinent. In Australia, the Northern Land Council, a statutory authority responsible for Aboriginal land and sea management in the country’s northern end, has been publishing COVID-related video clips online since March. The Chinese government has also published notices and video clips on disease control in over 39 ‘ethnic languages,’ despite its otherwise spotty record in minority language rights.
Spotlight: Philippines . . .
In the Philippines’ Bangsamoro region, an autonomous entity inaugurated in 2019 after years of armed conflict, the local COVID-19 outbreak has come with significant misinformation due to linguistic and technological barriers for the region’s Indigenous peoples. To address the problem, the Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM), a consortium of Indigenous youth groups, began translating updated COVID-related information into local languages in late May, distributing flyers, and connecting in person with people living in remote areas. The UN Development Programme and the Australian Embassy in the Philippines supported the group’s efforts.
Similar needs in Canada . . .
Canada’s Public Health Agency has worked with Indigenous Services Canada and other Indigenous organizations to publish COVID-19 resources in different Indigenous languages. Gaps, however, remain. In May, a Dene woman in Saskatchewan created a series of Dene-language videos about how to make masks and use disinfectants for people in her community who didn’t speak English, because such information wasn’t available from the government. Existing resources also heavily rely on text-based explanations, which require literacy and an internet connection, making them less accessible. More needs to be done, and experiences in the Asia Pacific can be a good source of insight.
- Language on the Move: Fighting the coronavirus in local languages
- Manila Bulletin: Mindanao youth group conducts COVID-19 information campaign to keep locals updated
- Wired: Covid-19 Is history’s biggest translation challenge