It is no secret that the world as we know it may never be the same again after the end of the current situation humanity is facing. Never before have globalization and our adjustment skills been put to such stress-test. Never before has the importance of mastering and learning foreign languages taken the spotlight so obviously. We live in a digital world, where information is one-click away and we are faced with a major global health crisis against which doctors worldwide fight in the first line of defence, racing against the clock. A battle against a very pervasive, unpredictable, new enemy which seems to defy every little aspect of human life, as we have known it so far… so, I think we could agree on the fact that conveying and exchanging information in due time is essential in this huge global effort.
Imagine the time which could have been saved if even far more people could have provided real-time Chinese to Italian translation services for the medical teams, or even if more European doctors spoke Chinese and could directly communicate with their peers in China… Of course, it would never occur to me to disregard the tremendous efforts of the translation and localization worldwide, however, I cannot help seeing reason in the increasing concerns raised by non-English speaking communities, who claim that information on the novel coronavirus is being communicated to them with certain delay and in less detail – an issue, which proven true, may ultimately put minority groups at higher risk.
So, the question is, what works better for enhancing communication in this given situation? Is a lingua franca like English enough? What can we learn from this in the future? Mind you, the medical field involves very technical concepts – as a matter of life and death, so, ideally, translation should be accurately provided by translators specialised in life sciences or even medical doctors, especially in this race against the clock… but given the sky-rocketing pace of pandemic developments, can we rely on volunteers and bilingual native speakers?
How many times in the past month did you ask yourself how things would have turned out if you were proficient in more foreign languages? Would language barriers have been melted? Would people have been more protected? Could more than almost half a million deaths have been avoided? Well, I am sure the translation and localization industry shall focus on answering some of these questions after this nightmare stops, under the “lessons learned” assessment.
What about now? Apart from social distancing and contributing as much as we can, what can we do to help, as translators, the brave soldiers who are in the first lines – the medical staff – and not only? Maybe we could take the opportunity lockdown has presented us with to further polish our language skills, to specialise in life sciences, to volunteer more for this humanitarian cause and why not, to translate the most important updates on coronavirus, e.g. relevant communications from authorities, and to disseminate such information to the expats and minority groups who do not fully understand the language of the country they reside in.
It is times like these that bring us together, that raise cultural awareness, that make us contributors to enhancing the greater good and remain united in diversity. Times when we need to stand together, collaborate and provide support to the greatest extent possible – only by teamwork we may win this war and embrace the change that is already putting a show before our eyes!