The Coronavirus Crisis And Its Impact On The Translation And Interpretation Industry
There is no denying that the COVID-19 crisis – also known as the coronavirus crisis – has had a significant impact on many industries. The language industry, like so many others, has not been left unscathed. The current lockdown may not change much for most translators, who for many years have already been working from home with digitized documents and the help of style guides and glossaries. However, for interpreters who provide their services in person at conferences, symposia, and international events, the story is quite different. As international businesses can no longer host delegations of foreign clients and partners in conference halls and executive briefing centers the way they usually would, interpretation services for many of these events have been canceled, impacting the interpreter community around the world.
However, despite these en masse cancellations, interpreters and translators are more important than ever during this worldwide crisis in helping both domestic and international companies transcend shelter-in-place orders and seize the current opportunity to develop their business worldwide.
The international language of science and health safety happens to be English. Without translators and interpreters working in tandem with scientists and health experts, a large body of indispensable information may not reach non-English speakers in time – if at all – to save countless lives. Both real-time interpretation and document translation services work to inform those making and implementing policies of direct concern to the entire world. Interpreters and translators are key to providing this information in as close to real-time as possible, not only for immigrant communities but also to make it accessible for citizens of any country willing to heed the call.
Written translation is key to spreading your message – not the virus
In 1918, during one of the last major worldwide pandemic known as the Spanish flu pandemic, translation of academic, scientific, and medical information became instrumental in the global movement to improve human lives through knowledge and cooperation. It was only a few years later that numerous non-governmental or international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and its World Health Organization (WHO), among others, came to be. Since then, translation – with its various specialized fields – has played a decisive role in the creation and implementation of policy in health and disaster response and mitigation.
Due to machine translation’s status as a still-nascent technology too unreliable for serious use, global organizations like the UN primarily rely on the efforts of trained and certified professionals who understand diplomacy and leverage the human power of languages. While translations spat out by machines may be more suitable for literal output or informal needs, they cannot adequately capture the nuance or subtle meanings that professional human linguists can, especially when it comes to medical, pharmaceutical, life-science, and legal translation.
In virtually every aspect of global crisis response and management, employing professional translation services is of utmost importance. The rapid and precise distribution of factual and helpful information can help to mitigate the negative impact of social chaos and ease economic disruption as disseminating how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can also help people adapt to new ways of working and contributing to society. More importantly, the rate of the global response to the pandemic can be accelerated as research, data, studies, and analyses are translated and distributed to the professional communities around the world that need it most. Only when all the relevant documentation has been properly transcribed, translated, and dispersed globally, will experts from around the world be able to collaborate to defeat the virus. As global virus outbreaks become deadlier and more destructive, these same concerns become even more urgent.
Thanks to confinement as one of many coronavirus containment measures, technology has positioned itself at the very core of keeping humanity connected – and sane. Live streaming of news and entertainment is on a meteoric rise. As people all over the world seek to work, inform themselves, and pass the time during lockdown or quarantine, businesses should consider transcription and subtitling services for an unprecedented opportunity to reach more people, both domestically and internationally.
Remote interpretation to the rescue!
The interpretation industry, like so many others, has reeled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry has largely depended on meetings that require physical presence. Clients – from the Fortune 500 to governments, to smaller-scale businesses – have, since early March 2020, canceled events where interpretation is needed. Many others have postponed plans for future events as they eye the possibility of remote solutions, such as webinars.
Another set of important clients, the courts, have also been shuttered to prevent the spread of the virus, but government services need (and sometimes require) interpreters to spread the message of keeping people safe and healthy. In this context, some interpreters have recently been hailed the true star of news conferences, including sign language interpreters.
As quarantines and other social-distancing policies remain in place across the planet, translation and interpretation services providers can adapt to clients’ demand for remote options by providing teleconferences and remote interpretation services to an influx of health-related events, and even to coronavirus-specific meetings. In the medical field, for example, going with a language services provider that is prepared to meet this challenge can literally mean the difference between life and death. More than ever, ethics and confidentiality are a must, and hiring experts who command the subtle nuance of language is critical.
The challenges the language industry faces at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportunity to continue providing for the ever-present need for multilingual services. In a world that finds itself, if by chance, even more, connected than ever before, may we emerge into a better way of life – and of doing business.