The Importance of Language Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Importance of Language Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During this challenging time, one small source of comfort is knowing that we are all in this together. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting communities from around the world and we must work across borders to beat this pandemic. Knowledge plays an indisputably significant role in overcoming the health and financial challenges arising from COVID-19. In order to share the knowledge that will help us progress past COVID-19, it is more pressing than ever before that we break down language barriers. This is why it’s important: 

To Enact Proper Safety Measures

Our current landscape is changing rapidly right now and it is important that both individuals and business owners have access to the latest safety information and regulations in their native languages. In regions where many languages are spoken, this is especially necessary. For example, in Orange County, CA, confusion occurred when new ordinances regarding social distancing and business regulations were announced. A poorly worded message was partly to blame for the mass confusion, but a language barrier was another reason there was a lack of understanding across the Orange County community.

Orange County officials attempted to remedy the situation by introducing updates in more languages, but the initial confusion caused fear and concern. Access to adequately translated materials is vital for everyone to do their part in maintaining safety regulations and slowing the spread of COVID-19 translated materials is critical. As the United States generally has a population that speaks many languages, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Language Action Plan that they recommend for scenarios like this. The plan suggests providing access to vital information in 19 different languages to confront a crisis properly.

To Make Progress Together

Alongside the countless individuals working to slow the spread of COVID-19, many researchers aim to find a vaccine or medication for treatment. As always, medical researchers must have access to the latest advancements. The translation of medical research is of the utmost importance for increasing our ability to work towards vaccines and treatments more efficiently. 

Typically, English is considered the go-to language for the medical community, but increased language access to COVID-19 research could help us make progress quicker. With proper translation, researchers can share updates on the outcomes of social distancing, expected health care costs, disease trends, the best treatments and care plans, and risk factors. Patients will also require access to translated materials such as pharmaceutical packaging and instructions for use. 

To Strengthen Communities

It is clear now, more than ever before, how essentially a strong sense of community is. If members of a community do not feel like they have access to the resources they need and are not being assisted, this could damage the strength of a community. Working together can only happen if we all feel united and valued. Proper language access during the COVID-19 pandemic is an indispensable step toward strengthening the bond of a community.

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