Poor translations on COVID-19 messaging from governments are failing to deliver key information about the pandemic, a new ABC report has shown.
The ABC investigation revealed a number of government information sheets — providing crucial information on masks and where to find information in languages other than English — had translation errors, resulting in “nonsensical” advice.
The Arabic translation of a document was criticised for being poorly formatted and made little sense because of it.
A further document shared by the Victorian government contained both Arabic and Farsi — separate languages using a similar script.
The report also found information provided on Twitter post about COVIDSafe being translated into Chinese was incorrect. It allegedly read: “Use your language supplied information” instead of “information in your language”.
The Chinese version on the poster is incorrect. By the way, when can you deliver the $10 millions Community Languages Multicultural Programs grant promised in the last Federal Election?
— Suzie Cong (@CongSuzie) July 28, 2020
Gizmodo Australia spoke to a Hindi speaker who sighted the mask information sheet in Hindi and described it as using “literal translations”. While the information made sense, it used redundant words and sentences to convey the messaging.
The federal health department told the ABC it had fixed the translation issues raised and planned for translators check posted material to ensure it was correct.
It’s not the only messaging failure of governments communicating in languages other than English since the pandemic began.
Australia’s COVIDSafe app was released in late April only supporting the English language.
Prime Minister Morrison now infamously described it as the ‘sunscreen’ Australians needed to use before leaving the house each time but upon its release, English was the only option available despite around one-fifth of Australians speaking a language other than English at home.
It’s since added language support for Arabic, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Italian and Greek speakers in the months after its release.
It’s a reminder for those quick to blame Australia’s multicultural communities for outbreaks — perhaps it’s the poor messaging of governments that should be on the front page.