TWB creates COVID-19 glossary

Translators without Borders (TWB) has developed a glossary in 33 languages to address language barriers involving COVID-19.


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This glossary will help health workers, global humanitarian organizations, and community-based responders communicate more effectively and consistently about COVID-19. It will help people to access information they need, regardless of the language they speak.
“Our research on Ebola found that the wrong terminology creates fear and confusion. Many health communicators lacked support to translate key concepts,” says TWB Executive Director Aimee Ansari. “COVID-19 is a terrifying and unprecedented challenge to global health. We hope that this glossary can help health workers, responders, and speakers of marginalized languages communicate more confidently and keep themselves safe.”

“Stay away from each other”

The TWB Glossary for COVID-19 includes terms commonly associated with COVID-19 such as “physical distancing,” “vaccination,” “quarantine,” and “face mask.” Many technical terms have become familiar to English speakers during the pandemic. However, many of those terms did not previously exist in other languages and cultural contexts. The glossary suggests equivalent terms where they haven’t previously existed. For example, there is no obvious translation of “physical distancing” in Swahili. Instead, TWB recommends using “kukaa mbali na mtu mwingine”, which means “stay away from each other.” And in Bangladesh, “COVID-19” is hardly ever used by Rohingya people. Instead, TWB recommends using “coronavirus.”

The TWB Glossary for COVID-19 can be used both on- and offline, helping responders even if they have low internet connectivity.
It was funded by the H2H Fund, which is supported by UK aid from the UK government. In addition, this work is supported by generous leaders in the language services industry, including RWS Moravia, Lionbridge, Smartling, and WeLocalize.