Could a lack of translation be bad for your health? That’s the theory of a team of researchers who will be studying the link between local language translation and social and health issues in Africa. They believe that a lack of information in multiple languages can leave people feeling powerless and unable to participate fully in society.
More than 2000 languages are spoken across the continent, but many of these are never written down. Information most people take for granted – such as the news media and websites – are often only available to those who speak majority languages such as French or Arabic.
Market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA) has teamed up with the Translators Without Borders to explore the connection between availability of translations and health, social and political inequalities. It will look at the state of translation for African languages, training and employment of translators, and challenges they face.
CSA CEO, Tahar Bouhaf, said: “Our firm continually publishes research about the importance of translation in business settings. But translation also serves a much broader purpose, enabling people to obtain access to basic information that can help them enjoy greater social and political participation and ultimately live healthier and more fulfilling lives.”
This also has implications closer to home. A review for the Postgraduate Medical Journal found that multilingual information was vital for ensuring equal access to health services in the UK. It advised translating information, from medical consent forms to media campaigns.
UK-based companies may never come across a customer who speaks Uduk or Sandawe. But it’s worth remembering that most people are reluctant to buy goods or services if they can’t access information in their native tongue.
There are roughly half a million Polish speakers in the UK, with considerable spending power, as well as substantial minorities speaking Punjabi, Bengalis and Urdu. And if you’re thinking of tapping into fast-growing foreign markets, then local language translation is the obvious first step.