Arabic Translations of Covid-19 Public Health Messages are ‘Nonsensical’

Public health message translations, released by governments around the world and relating to the Covi-19 pandemic, should be as accurate as possible so that people (no matter which language they speak) are able to safely protect themselves and others from the virus.

However, according to a recent article, many governments are mistranslating health information and putting citizens at risk with erroneous translations.

The Australian government are the latest, in an ever-growing group, to have produced translations for multicultural communities which contain errors. They also failed to differentiate between two completely different languages, causing confusion and fear among migrants and refugees.

One federal government health department campaign which was created to encourage Arabic speakers to wear face masks was “so poorly formatted that it doesn’t make sense” according to the article.

The Refugee Council of Australia’s Arabic speaker, Deena Yako, said the translation “is gibberish and it’s nonsensical”.

In another image, Tweeted by the federal government, which was supposed to inform Chinese speakers where to look for more information about the pandemic actually translated to “Use your language supplied information”.

But it isn’t only the federal government who are mistranslating information.

In Victoria, a poster informing readers of the need to use face masks when out in public used both Farsi and Arabic in the same translation, whereas they are actually two separate languages that share a comparable alphabet.

Ms Yako said that the translation errors risk eroding the expert authority of the message and consequently, trust in government competency.

She said “it is almost laughable when you look at these translations and these publications used by the federal government or even our state governments”.

“Communities have a lot of trust in their government and when you do come across these publications that are incorrect, inaccurate and have the wrong information on them, it becomes questionable, and of course the community will lose that trust,” she continued.

The Australian government claim they quickly corrected the Arabic translation errors and that the mistake happened when the document was uploaded to the website.

They now plan to have translators check material once it has been translated and posted online to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Carla Wilshire, Migration Council Australia chief executive, said that there have been numerous translation errors in health information regarding the pandemic due to” the rush to get a lot of information out to migrant communities”.

Because of this rush some of the translations have been “a little bit hit and miss” she said.

“Some of the translations have been of a particularly formal nature, or have grammar mistakes or have syntax errors”.

In an aim to alleviate the translation problems, Ms Wilshire said translations must be double or triple checked for accuracy by accredited translators before publication.

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