As Victoria settles uncomfortably into her fourth official lockdown, our thoughts turn to the experience of our culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALDs). With 26% of Victorians speaking a language other than English (LOTE) at home, we are a truly superdiverse (multicultural and multilingual) society, where the need for language services is high.

For CALD communities, this may mean being able to access interpretation services or receive translated pandemic information.

Adequate translations must carefully take into account the needs of the target audience:

  • Are they literate?
  • Are they consuming traditional media?
  • Who do they usually get their information from of?

CALD communities often prefer to access information through their own networks, as their trust in government authorities may be low.

Lost in translation

Following major concerns about the accuracy of translated health information on COVID-19 in 2020, researchers expressed the need for “communities of trust” made up of people able to communicate sensitively and tailor messages to the specific needs of communities ”.

Many translations of information on COVID-19 were deemed unacceptable because they did not recognize the diversity within ethnic communities and did not prioritize communication tailored to specific target audiences.

Rather than focusing on examples of translation errors in COVID-19 materials and blaming the translators, the public conversation widened to recognize the need for intercultural communication based on the practice of intercultural dialogueeu.

Empathy is a central element of cross-culturally competent translators. The emphasis on empathy is all the more relevant as it goes against the prevailing expectation of impartiality in the professional practice of translation and interpretation.

In addition, translators and interpreters are both expert communicators and members of the community; they are ethically responsible for the impact of their translation and interpretation activities on the lives of people in the real world.

Yet ethical responsibility cannot be expected only from translators and interpreters – it involves all stakeholders (policy makers, health advisers, communication teams, language service providers and translators / interpreters) who together must raise the profile the complexity of the forms of communication. which take place, authentically and spontaneously, in superdiverse societies.

Read more: Rethinking the COVID message for multicultural communities

So, as we find ourselves a few days after our fourth lockdown, the question is: has communication, especially regarding the importance of vaccination, with our CALD communities improved?

As of May 2020, the government of Victoria has committed $ 25.6 million to support Victoria’s multicultural and multi-faith communities during the pandemic.

Globally, attention has shifted to vaccine communication. The deployment of vaccination has shown how closely our activities are linked cultural and linguistic literacy.

Fight against disinformation

We have witnessed the worldwide dissemination of misinformation about the effectiveness of vaccines, leading to widespread reluctance to get vaccinated.

In Hong Kong, for example, Chinese COVID-19 Sinovac vaccine has been cast doubtful, indicating that apprehension about vaccination is a “sociological phenomenon”, while In Taiwan, disinformation about the pandemic, including the “inferiority” of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has coincided with a new wave of infections.

As many members of the Victorian-era CALD community still consume media from their “home” countries, the potential for such misinformation spreading in local migrant communities is real.

Diverse group of women disseminating information.

In an extremely diverse city like Melbourne, where many languages ​​and cultures coexist, we need to develop a multilingual communication strategy – one that does not let urgency dictate the quality of translation, but rather focuses on the immediate needs of the translation. ‘a multilingual. public.

There is much more we can do in this area.

Successful intercultural communication is difficult to achieve, as it involves verbal and non-verbal messages. An example of good practice is the regular appearance of sign language interpreters (Auslan) alongside government spokespersons during press conferences, which represents an important step in the visibility of sign language and allows , for the first time in Australia, families with deaf and hearing members to use and consume the same media in the same way. It is vital to maintain the kind of positive momentum generated by increased use of multimodal resources.

A major and notable change in the government’s communications strategy has been the availability of a wide range of COVID-related materials in text, image and video form. For example, English-sourced videos featuring elderly Victorians talking about vaccines were captioned in major community languages, and multilingual radio ads were produced.

Translated documents now better reflect the different ways people consume media – combinations of inline text, hyperlinked PDF files and Word documents are used for instructions, JPEG files and posters for visual demonstrations, downloadable audio files that are more conversational than instructional and video files with LOTE audio dubbing and English subtitles (or vice versa), for hands-on demonstrations on how to wear a face shield.

Communication problems encountered during the pandemic highlight the need for better planning of the coordination of intercultural communication so that populations vulnerable to different languages, norms, beliefs and practices are not forgotten.

These changes reflect the diversity within CALD communities, where some groups have limited literacy and where messages need to be primarily auditory and audiovisual. For example, in South Australia, some translators not only translate information into written texts and videos, but also work as bilingual field agents relay COVID-19 material through phone, video and face-to-face dialogues.

Translations must not only be accurate, but also reach those for whom they are intended. A major hurdle is that almost all documents translated in Australia are embedded in English-language websites that require users to have English skills to access them.

Materials should not only be translated, but adapted to the specific needs of the community. We do not really know to what extent the translated documents meet their goal of achieving a level of health literacy and effecting behavioral changes among residents of CALD.

This question is addressed in a interdisciplinary project funded by the Commonwealth Health Department which focuses on the effectiveness of messages translated by the COVID-19 government into languages ​​other than English for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as Auslan’s messages for deaf and hard of hearing residents.

The Victorian government regularly updates the information

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Victorian government has produced texts written on COVID-related topics in 59 languages.

The government of Victoria has a proactive policy regarding the use of LOTE in government, and is the only state to have regularly updated guidelines on the use of LOTE. interpretation services and the provision of efficient translations.

In August 2020, the Victorian government established a CALD Communities Working Group, followed by the CALD COVID-19 Health Advisory Group in April 2021, to support the Australian government in coordinating an evidence-based response to the pandemic.

Members of this group are very broadly representative of ethnic community and health perspectives, but would benefit from expert advice on cross-cultural awareness, which is essential to ensure effective communication between and among communities.

Communication problems encountered during the pandemic highlight the need for better planning of the coordination of intercultural communication so that populations vulnerable to different languages, norms, beliefs and practices are not forgotten.

A chain of trust between all stakeholders must be established so that we can work together to be better prepared for future crises.

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