The Open Public Health Journal




ISSN: 1874-9445 ― Volume 14, 2021
CURRENT FRONTIER

Unity in Adversity: Multilingual Crisis Translation and Emergency Linguistics in the COVID-19 Pandemic



Jeconiah Louis Dreisbach1, *, Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach2
1 Filipino Department, De La Salle University, 2401 Taft Avenue, Manila, 1004, Philippines
2 School of Business, Skyline University College, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Abstract

In this globalised era, technological innovations in mobility and travel brought in international and intercultural contact which historically exposed the world population to diseases of pandemic levels. As we are already living in multilingual and multicultural societies, this contact amongst peoples necessitates the need for multilingual knowledge and educational materials production pertaining to public health measures. As established in recent literature on multilingual crisis translation initiatives from China and the Philippines, this discursive piece proposes that emergency language services should be formally institutionalised in public health organisations, most certainly in crisis prevention, responses, and mitigation. The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the need for such expertise and language experts all over the world are currently proposing to establish a new field in linguistics to tackle public health translation in emergency situations – emergency linguistics.

Keywords: COVID-19, Crisis translation, Emergency linguistics, Multilingualism, Public health, Mitigation.


Article Information


Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2021
Volume: 14
First Page: 94
Last Page: 97
Publisher Id: TOPHJ-14-94
DOI: 10.2174/1874944502114010094

Article History:

Received Date: 4/10/2020
Revision Received Date: 20/12/2020
Acceptance Date: 1/1/2021
Electronic publication date: 22/03/2021
Collection year: 2021

© 2021 Dreisbach. et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Filipino, De La Salle University, 2401 Taft Avenue, Manila, 1004, Philippines; E-mail: jeconiah.dreisbach@dlsu.edu.ph





1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. Linguistic Barriers in Health Communication

The emergence and immediate spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the world’s population are testing the linguistic limits of the world’s 7,117 living languages [1Eberhard DM, Simons GF, Fennig CD, Eds. Ethnologue: Languages of the World 23rd ed. 2020.], most especially on minority languages that have not undergone the process of intellectualisation as major political efforts in language development mainly focus on the dominant languages of a country. Moreover, technological advancements globalised our cultures and societies as it allowed us mobility due to the relatively low costs of air travel. Health authorities are suddenly braving into intercultural crisis communication attributable to the multilingual and multicultural factors that compose an internationalised society [2Wang P. Translation in the COVID-19 health emergency in Wuhan: A crisis manager’s perspective. J int Local 2020; 6(2): 86-107.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/jial.00014.wan]
]. Public health experts in doctor-patient communication recognise that miscommunication brought upon by linguistic barriers are life-threatening situations for patients who are unable to express their symptoms in a second or foreign language [3Meuter RFI, Gallois C, Segalowitz NS, Ryder AG, Hocking J. Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language. BMC Health Serv Res 2015; 15: 371.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-1024-8] [PMID: 26357948]
]. This discursive piece presents the grassroots efforts to mitigate the increase of COVID-19 cases in international and multilingual communities through crisis translation. The linguistic [4Frankel RM. The (socio)linguistic turn in physician-patient communication research. Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) 2000: Linguistics, Language, and the Professions: Education, Law, Medicine, and Technology 2000; 81-103.] and creative [5Byrne E, Elliot E, Saltus R, Angharad J. The creative turn in evidence for public health: community and arts-based methodologies. J Public Health 2018; 40(suppl_1): i24-30.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx151]
] turns in public health offer alternative methods and approaches in knowledge production that are useful in the mobilisation of healthcare workers in a health crisis.

1.2. Multilingual Crisis Translation in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Li, Xie, Ai, and Li [6Li J, Xie P, Ai B, Li L. Multilingual communication experiences of international students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 529-39.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0116]
] stated that there is a need to go beyond English-mediated knowledge production to combat the COVD-19 crisis at the grassroots level. They suggested an “epistemological shift from the global north to the global south where multilingual realities form thousands of years of history and civilisation, and where indigenous knowledge constitutes the essence of guiding principles embedded in social practice.” Beyond health education through the mother tongue of the interlocutors, acknowledging multilingual realities and translation of COVID-19 mitigation materials to the readers’ first language will introduce practices that are closer to their own social and cultural sensibilities.

In Wuhan, the globally-recognised source of the disease, crisis managers identified that translation was an underdeveloped tool in managing the disease outbreak at the time when foreigners were allowed to leave the city in January. In an effort to mitigate the increase of COVID-19 cases from people who came from the city, its municipal government deployed government and external volunteer translators to educate the local population and affected foreign nationals on preventive measures such as social distancing, self-isolation, and the wearing of masks, among other initiatives [2Wang P. Translation in the COVID-19 health emergency in Wuhan: A crisis manager’s perspective. J int Local 2020; 6(2): 86-107.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/jial.00014.wan]
].

To serve the international community in Wuhan, a necessity for multilingual logistics communication, an area in sociolinguistics that has been sparsely explored, also emerged from their crisis response. Crisis managers found that for their volunteer translators to efficiently translate COVID-19 education materials, the municipal government assigned them to context-specific translation work that is related to their specialisations, specifically on teaching, business, and public management in the English, Portuguese, and Spanish languages. Beyond being mediators, these translators became actual healthcare front-liners in the aspect of multilingual crisis communication for their language competencies afforded them the opportunity to provide emergency language services [7Zhang J, Wu Y. Providing multilingual logistics communication in COVID-19 disaster relief. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 517-28.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0110]
].

As the disease outbreak reached Shanghai, multilingual translation efforts were immediately organized by university student volunteers in cooperation with local community health workers who are serving multicultural communities in the metropolitan area. Foreign language students in local universities were in constant close collaboration with health authorities in providing health education materials to the grassroots multilingual communities of the city, which enhanced emergency language services and crisis communication, particularly in the Arabic, English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish languages [8Zheng Y. Mobilizing foreign language students for multilingual crisis translation in Shanghai. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 587-95.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0095]
].

The COVID-19 pandemic emphasised the need to include emergency language management practices in crisis prevention and preparation strategies. As soon as the disease became an outbreak in China, a group of linguists all over the country established the Epidemic Language Service Corps that provided standardised public emergency language services. As of this writing, the said group already published health education materials such as the Hubei Dialects Glossary for Fighting the Epidemic, the Foreign Language Glossary for Fighting the Epidemic, and Concise Chinese for Fighting the Epidemic. Li, Zhao, and He [9Li Y, Zhao S, He L. “Zhanyi Yuyan Fuwutuan” de Shijian yu Sikao (The practice of and reflections on “Epidemic Language Service Corps”). Yuyan Zhanlue Yanjiu 2020; 5(5): 23-30. [Chinese Journal of Language Policy and Planning].] regarded that the construction of a language emergency service is a practical policy for local and national governments to develop a knowledge base that could be utilised in outbreak mitigation measures and mobilisation mechanism.

1.3. Regional Reconciliation in Collective Translation Efforts

Across the West Philippine Sea and due to its proximity with China, the Philippines was heavily plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic as well. With 184 living languages spoken by the 105 million population of the country [1Eberhard DM, Simons GF, Fennig CD, Eds. Ethnologue: Languages of the World 23rd ed. 2020.], there had always been ethnic tension between the dominant and minority ethnolinguistic groups. To emphasise their regional identities, non-Tagalog ethnolinguistic groups frequently prefer to speak their native languages in most linguistic situations in the public sphere, even health communication initiatives by national and local governments [10Demeterio FPA, Liwanag LAL. The Language Policies and Practices of Philippines and Thailand: Insights and Lessons for Language Planning. Silliman J 2014; 25(2): 19-59.]. This ethnolinguistic conflict is still widespread among groups that are greatly critical of the Tagalog-based Philippine national language [11Dreisbach JL, Demeterio FPA. Intergenerational Language Preference Shift among Cebuanos on the Cebuano, Filipino, and English Languages. LLT Journal: A Journal on Language and Language Teaching 2020; 23(2): 220-40.].

Despite linguistic and cultural divergences, linguists and translators in the country united in the efforts to address the multilingual crisis translation challenges brought by the pandemic. The organisation Language Warriors PH was established as a meta-translation initiative that organises volunteer translators across the country and translates COVID-19 education materials into Philippine languages. In 10 thematic domains, including physical and mental health, 927 health education materials have been translated into 70 Philippine languages, including Filipino Sign Language and Filipino Gay Lingo to make it inclusive in the deaf-mute and gay communities [12Encarnacion ADP. UP’s ‘language warriors’ fight to equalize access to COVID-19 information. University of the Philippines 2020. Available at: https://www.up.edu.ph/ups-language- warriors-fight-to-equalize-access-to-covid-19-information/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.]. Fig. (1) shows the tracking of translated health education materials in the languages mentioned.

Fig. (1)
A tracker of the health education materials translated by Language Warriors PH volunteers in 70 Philippine languages [12Encarnacion ADP. UP’s ‘language warriors’ fight to equalize access to COVID-19 information. University of the Philippines 2020. Available at: https://www.up.edu.ph/ups-language- warriors-fight-to-equalize-access-to-covid-19-information/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.].


Proponents of the volunteer translation organisation recognise that “production of materials is one aspect of the overall aim to push for inclusive and equal access to information, but dissemination is an equally important part of the goal” in COVID-19 mitigation. Furthermore, the group considers that having access to accurate and quality information is part of the Filipinos’ basic human rights. As the organisers of the group are linguistics professors of the University of the Philippines, the country’s national university, they also aim to systematically gather their experiences as data in developing policy recommendations for emergency language management services [12Encarnacion ADP. UP’s ‘language warriors’ fight to equalize access to COVID-19 information. University of the Philippines 2020. Available at: https://www.up.edu.ph/ups-language- warriors-fight-to-equalize-access-to-covid-19-information/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.].

Students from the Philippine Science High School made efforts in developing child-friendly COVID-19 educational materials that are available to the general public. For it to be inclusive, the multi-campus science-oriented high school also translated their story and colouring books in various Philippine and Asian languages to fulfill the need to educate children coming from various Philippine and Asian ethnicities [13Philippine Science High School. COVID-19 Storybook 2020. Available at: http://www.publiscience.org/covid-19-storybook/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.].

As of the publication of this piece, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States government [14Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Communication Toolkit for Migrants, Refugees, and Other Limited English-Proficient Populations 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/communication-toolkit.html 11 December 2020, date last accessed.], the European Commission [15European Commission. COVID-19 Multilingual Information Access Initiative. Covid-19 MLIA Eval 2020. Available at: http:// eval.covid19-mlia.eu/11 December 2020, date last accessed.], and the Department of Health [16Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing. COVID-19: Translated resources 2020. Available at: http://www.culturaldiversity. com.au/service-providers/multilingual-resources/covid-19-resources/ 11 December 2020, date last accessed.] of the Australian government, among others, have established multilingual educational resources for the migrant minority populations of their respective countries (Fig. 2).

Fig. (2)
The cover page of a story colouring book developed by the Philippine Science High School students generally available to the public in various Philippine and Asian languages.


CONCLUSION

Incorporating Emergency Language Services in Public Health Crises Responses

In this globalised era, technological innovations in mobility and travel brought in international and intercultural contact which historically exposed the world population to diseases of pandemic levels. As we are already living in multilingual and multicultural societies, this contact amongst peoples necessitates the need for multilingual knowledge and educational materials production pertaining to public health measures. As established in recent literature on multilingual crisis translation initiatives from China and the Philippines, we propose that emergency language services should be formally institutionalised in public health organisations, most certainly in crisis prevention, responses, and mitigation.

Crisis translation as an area in translation studies is in its infancy as it has only emerged in the past decade due to the need to respond to multilingual areas severely affected by natural and man-made disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the need for such expertise and language experts all over the world are currently proposing to establish a new field in linguistics to tackle public health translation in emergency situations – emergency linguistics [17Li Y. Language lessons of COVID-19 and linguistic disaster preparedness. Language on the Move 2020. Available at: https://www.languageonthemove.com/language-lessons-of-covid-19-and-linguistic-disaster-preparedness/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed., 18King’s College London. #CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral 2020. Available at: https://www.kcl. ac.uk/news/coronaspeak-the-language-of-covid-19-goes-viral/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.].

CONSENT FOR PUBLICATION

Not applicable.

FUNDING

None.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Declared none.

REFERENCES

[1] Eberhard DM, Simons GF, Fennig CD, Eds. Ethnologue: Languages of the World 23rd ed. 2020.
[2] Wang P. Translation in the COVID-19 health emergency in Wuhan: A crisis manager’s perspective. J int Local 2020; 6(2): 86-107.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/jial.00014.wan]
[3] Meuter RFI, Gallois C, Segalowitz NS, Ryder AG, Hocking J. Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language. BMC Health Serv Res 2015; 15: 371.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-1024-8] [PMID: 26357948]
[4] Frankel RM. The (socio)linguistic turn in physician-patient communication research. Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) 2000: Linguistics, Language, and the Professions: Education, Law, Medicine, and Technology 2000; 81-103.
[5] Byrne E, Elliot E, Saltus R, Angharad J. The creative turn in evidence for public health: community and arts-based methodologies. J Public Health 2018; 40(suppl_1): i24-30.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx151]
[6] Li J, Xie P, Ai B, Li L. Multilingual communication experiences of international students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 529-39.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0116]
[7] Zhang J, Wu Y. Providing multilingual logistics communication in COVID-19 disaster relief. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 517-28.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0110]
[8] Zheng Y. Mobilizing foreign language students for multilingual crisis translation in Shanghai. Multilingua 2020; 39(5): 587-95.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/multi-2020-0095]
[9] Li Y, Zhao S, He L. “Zhanyi Yuyan Fuwutuan” de Shijian yu Sikao (The practice of and reflections on “Epidemic Language Service Corps”). Yuyan Zhanlue Yanjiu 2020; 5(5): 23-30. [Chinese Journal of Language Policy and Planning].
[10] Demeterio FPA, Liwanag LAL. The Language Policies and Practices of Philippines and Thailand: Insights and Lessons for Language Planning. Silliman J 2014; 25(2): 19-59.
[11] Dreisbach JL, Demeterio FPA. Intergenerational Language Preference Shift among Cebuanos on the Cebuano, Filipino, and English Languages. LLT Journal: A Journal on Language and Language Teaching 2020; 23(2): 220-40.
[12] Encarnacion ADP. UP’s ‘language warriors’ fight to equalize access to COVID-19 information. University of the Philippines 2020. Available at: https://www.up.edu.ph/ups-language- warriors-fight-to-equalize-access-to-covid-19-information/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.
[13] Philippine Science High School. COVID-19 Storybook 2020. Available at: http://www.publiscience.org/covid-19-storybook/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.
[14] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Communication Toolkit for Migrants, Refugees, and Other Limited English-Proficient Populations 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/communication-toolkit.html 11 December 2020, date last accessed.
[15] European Commission. COVID-19 Multilingual Information Access Initiative. Covid-19 MLIA Eval 2020. Available at: http:// eval.covid19-mlia.eu/11 December 2020, date last accessed.
[16] Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing. COVID-19: Translated resources 2020. Available at: http://www.culturaldiversity. com.au/service-providers/multilingual-resources/covid-19-resources/ 11 December 2020, date last accessed.
[17] Li Y. Language lessons of COVID-19 and linguistic disaster preparedness. Language on the Move 2020. Available at: https://www.languageonthemove.com/language-lessons-of-covid-19-and-linguistic-disaster-preparedness/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.
[18] King’s College London. #CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral 2020. Available at: https://www.kcl. ac.uk/news/coronaspeak-the-language-of-covid-19-goes-viral/ 03 September 2020, date last accessed.
Track Your Manuscript:


Endorsements



"Open access will revolutionize 21st century knowledge work and accelerate the diffusion of ideas and evidence that support just in time learning and the evolution of thinking in a number of disciplines."


Daniel Pesut
(Indiana University School of Nursing, USA)

"It is important that students and researchers from all over the world can have easy access to relevant, high-standard and timely scientific information. This is exactly what Open Access Journals provide and this is the reason why I support this endeavor."


Jacques Descotes
(Centre Antipoison-Centre de Pharmacovigilance, France)

"Publishing research articles is the key for future scientific progress. Open Access publishing is therefore of utmost importance for wider dissemination of information, and will help serving the best interest of the scientific community."


Patrice Talaga
(UCB S.A., Belgium)

"Open access journals are a novel concept in the medical literature. They offer accessible information to a wide variety of individuals, including physicians, medical students, clinical investigators, and the general public. They are an outstanding source of medical and scientific information."


Jeffrey M. Weinberg
(St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, USA)

"Open access journals are extremely useful for graduate students, investigators and all other interested persons to read important scientific articles and subscribe scientific journals. Indeed, the research articles span a wide range of area and of high quality. This is specially a must for researchers belonging to institutions with limited library facility and funding to subscribe scientific journals."


Debomoy K. Lahiri
(Indiana University School of Medicine, USA)

"Open access journals represent a major break-through in publishing. They provide easy access to the latest research on a wide variety of issues. Relevant and timely articles are made available in a fraction of the time taken by more conventional publishers. Articles are of uniformly high quality and written by the world's leading authorities."


Robert Looney
(Naval Postgraduate School, USA)

"Open access journals have transformed the way scientific data is published and disseminated: particularly, whilst ensuring a high quality standard and transparency in the editorial process, they have increased the access to the scientific literature by those researchers that have limited library support or that are working on small budgets."


Richard Reithinger
(Westat, USA)

"Not only do open access journals greatly improve the access to high quality information for scientists in the developing world, it also provides extra exposure for our papers."


J. Ferwerda
(University of Oxford, UK)

"Open Access 'Chemistry' Journals allow the dissemination of knowledge at your finger tips without paying for the scientific content."


Sean L. Kitson
(Almac Sciences, Northern Ireland)

"In principle, all scientific journals should have open access, as should be science itself. Open access journals are very helpful for students, researchers and the general public including people from institutions which do not have library or cannot afford to subscribe scientific journals. The articles are high standard and cover a wide area."


Hubert Wolterbeek
(Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)

"The widest possible diffusion of information is critical for the advancement of science. In this perspective, open access journals are instrumental in fostering researches and achievements."


Alessandro Laviano
(Sapienza - University of Rome, Italy)

"Open access journals are very useful for all scientists as they can have quick information in the different fields of science."


Philippe Hernigou
(Paris University, France)

"There are many scientists who can not afford the rather expensive subscriptions to scientific journals. Open access journals offer a good alternative for free access to good quality scientific information."


Fidel Toldrá
(Instituto de Agroquimica y Tecnologia de Alimentos, Spain)

"Open access journals have become a fundamental tool for students, researchers, patients and the general public. Many people from institutions which do not have library or cannot afford to subscribe scientific journals benefit of them on a daily basis. The articles are among the best and cover most scientific areas."


M. Bendandi
(University Clinic of Navarre, Spain)

"These journals provide researchers with a platform for rapid, open access scientific communication. The articles are of high quality and broad scope."


Peter Chiba
(University of Vienna, Austria)

"Open access journals are probably one of the most important contributions to promote and diffuse science worldwide."


Jaime Sampaio
(University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal)

"Open access journals make up a new and rather revolutionary way to scientific publication. This option opens several quite interesting possibilities to disseminate openly and freely new knowledge and even to facilitate interpersonal communication among scientists."


Eduardo A. Castro
(INIFTA, Argentina)

"Open access journals are freely available online throughout the world, for you to read, download, copy, distribute, and use. The articles published in the open access journals are high quality and cover a wide range of fields."


Kenji Hashimoto
(Chiba University, Japan)

"Open Access journals offer an innovative and efficient way of publication for academics and professionals in a wide range of disciplines. The papers published are of high quality after rigorous peer review and they are Indexed in: major international databases. I read Open Access journals to keep abreast of the recent development in my field of study."


Daniel Shek
(Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

"It is a modern trend for publishers to establish open access journals. Researchers, faculty members, and students will be greatly benefited by the new journals of Bentham Science Publishers Ltd. in this category."


Jih Ru Hwu
(National Central University, Taiwan)


Browse Contents




Webmaster Contact: info@benthamopen.net
Copyright © 2021 Bentham Open