August 4, 2020

Lack of Translated Coronavirus Guidance Jeopardizing Non-English Speakers in U.K.

BBC News (United Kingdom).

A joint letter to the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government warns that a lack of translated coronavirus guidance is jeopardizing the safety of non-English speakers in Britain.

In their letter, around 30 local authorities, public health leaders, and charities urge the government to produce and continue to update information in more languages. The U.K. government said it has translated public health information into 25 languages reaching a wide audience. However, the letter states this information appears in a “limited range of languages” and that translations can take weeks to be updated when advice or rules change.

According to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics, more than four million people in England and Wales do not consider English their main language, including more than 860,000 people who speak little or no English. In England and Wales, 88 non-English languages are spoken as a main language.

A government spokesperson said that although it “wouldn’t be feasible” to provide translations of all of these languages, the government had translated some of its “key messages on coronavirus into the most common languages spoken in the country.”
The authors of the letter state that many of these translations have become obsolete as guidelines have been updated. For example, in March the government released guidance on social distancing in 11 languages, including Welsh, Urdu, Arabic, and Bengali. But this advice was withdrawn in May when the guidance changed. The current social distancing guidelines for England, along with information on the Nation Health Service Test and Trace program and the rules for wearing face coverings, have still not been translated.

Doctors of the World, which coordinated the letter, runs clinics in London that provide medical care and information for “excluded people” such as non-English-speaking migrants, asylum seekers, homeless people, and those with low literacy levels. 

According to the charity, it has translated coronavirus guidance into documents, audio guides, and videos in more than 60 languages. The government reportedly has completely forgotten and left out this patient group who are at increased risk of catching the virus.

Local authorities provide translations of some of their own guidance. But several authorities “can’t keep up with the rapid changes of guidance,” leading to inconsistent and outdated information.

The letter urges the central government to lead in maintaining the “quality and consistency” of public health messages. It further states that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has a “statutory duty” to provide translated resources. “As lockdown measures are eased and guidance changes regularly, it is not sustainable or practical for local authorities and civil society to meet this need,” the letter states.

Sourse: American translators association

Lack of Translated Coronavirus Guidance Jeopardizing Non-English Speakers in U.K.