The Global Language Services Industry

Language Services – When Lives Hang In The Balance

“Unfortunately, language is usually not seen as a priority in emergency responses. As a result, misinformation, mistrust, fear and panic can spread quickly.”1 

Nadia Berger and Grace Tang

Nadia Berger and Grace Tange were referring to the aftermath of the 2014 – 2016 Ebola outbreak which quickly spread beyond the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo to neighboring African countries and city centers, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, this statement could have just as easily applied to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which spread to more than 24 countries in North and South America, Europe, and Asia before it was finally contained in 2003. In fact, if we don’t act quickly, this statement will most definitely also apply to the world’s current pandemic, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Language Services Providers (LSPs) – Weathering The Storm Together

Throughout the years, sign language and multilingual interpreters have been present along international borders during many refugee crises. They’re front-and-center when natural disasters hit without warning and on the frontlines with first responders in times of conflict and war – some have even paid the ultimate price. Translators also play a critical role in times of crisis. Although oftentimes behind the scenes, these professionals are masters at working remotely providing invaluable legal, governmental, and medical translations when they are needed most.

In fact, the entire global language services industry is built to withstand any crisis. The very foundation of our collective ecosystem is built on professional networking, connecting us in a moment’s notice to countless linguistic professionals worldwide – we can only offer you our best when we’re tapped in to the finest linguists the world has to offer. To that end, we continuously invest in advanced technology and have built sophisticated IT infrastructures to seamlessly support remote business operations and deliver immediate global solutions. Yes, we’ve certainly been here before. And just like so many who have weathered the storms before us, we’ll stand arm in arm and weather this latest storm together.

Language Services Providers Aren’t Going Anywhere

COVID-19, a disease caused by a virus strain, first made its appearance in Wuhan, China, then began to spread globally at an alarming rate. Today, it has reached more than 196 countries and has affected roughly 395,000 people – but these numbers continue to rise*. In fact, while the number of reported cases in China is now decreasing, many other countries around the world (including the United States) have yet to hit their peak. With over 11,000 people having already lost their lives to this virus, immediate, informed, and cohesive measures are critically needed to stop COVID-19 in its tracks and restore order to the world. With each passing day – in fact, with each passing hour – there seems to be new regions affected. Many hospitals are now beyond their capacity and healthcare practitioners are in dire need of resources.

By working in partnership with international authorities, life sciences, and healthcare organizations, LSPs are strategically positioned to accurately and quickly disseminate necessary information to all corners of the world. Whether content needs to quickly reach patients and their loved ones, healthcare providers, or news outlets, LSPs have the skills, the training, and the experience to partner as part of your larger crisis-response team. Once again, the language services industry has already started to mobilize. We’re already in position and are actively partnering with international governments and first responders to quickly and accurately share critical information as it unfolds. With decades of experience bridging the communication gap, we’ve developed resilience in the face of hardship – and we’re not going anywhere.

*For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit Worldometer, “voted as one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world.”2

LSPs Minimize The Risk Of Spreading Misinformation

As experts in project management, LSPs provide quick turnaround times to meet your unique needs. LSPs help you connect to a wider global audience and ensure accurate information such as public safety and social distancing protocols reaches all peoples, including the world’s most marginalized communities. And with so many companies now facing “stay at home” orders, LSPs specialized in over-the-phone and remote interpreting services (as well as a myriad of other specialized language services) will support your newly created remote working environments. Most LSPs have also secured the latest ISO 9001:2015 certification, giving you further confidence in our established and trusted translation and localization processes. In short, we were built for times like these.

The global language services industry comprises tens of thousands of small and mid-sized LSPs that often work in partnership with a select few international networks.These unique partnerships provide specialized language services to hundreds of languages around the world and provide invaluable language support to virtually every industry, three of which are of critical importance as we work collectively to fight COVID-19.

Healthcare Language Services

Hospitals around the world are becoming overwhelmed and inundated with patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Not only are Intensive Care Units (ICUs) reaching their maximum capacity, but a growing shortage of beds, resources, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare practitioners are putting a severe strain on hospital systems worldwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of March 16, 38 percent of patients requiring hospitalization were between the ages of 20 and 54, while 62 percent were 55 and older. And although the number of hospitalizations in the United States is relatively low compared to other countries, these numbers are expected to rise dramatically within the coming weeks.


Data Source: CDC

Now more than ever before, hospitals are in desperate need for language services that specialize in healthcare translation and interpreting. In fact, countless studies have shown a direct correlation between the investment in linguistically- and culturally-competent communication in healthcare and a reduction in emergency room (ER) visits, shorter hospital stays, and greater patient satisfaction – ultimately leading to a marked improvement in patient outcomes.

LSPs that offer over-the-phone (OTP) and video remote interpreting (VRI) services can help connect patients at home to healthcare practitioners thereby helping to reduce the influx of unnecessary visits to the ER and doctors’ offices.

Government-Supported Language Services

As of March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency in response to COVID-19. As a result, municipal, state, and federal governments are working around the clock to prepare emergency-response protocols, safety measures, and relief initiatives. The following is an inexhaustive list of federal government agencies involved in this collective effort.

DepartmentAction
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)Assisting “state, local, tribal, territorial governments and other eligible entities with the health and safety actions they take on behalf of the American public”3
Administration for Community LivingProviding information for older adults and people with disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Studying the virus worldwide and helping communities respond locally
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)Offering guidance for volunteers and programs
Defense Commissary AgencyEnsuring quality and safety of food available at commissaries worldwide
Department of DefenseSupporting government response and working to protect the health of the military
Department of EnergyResearching COVID-19 at the National Labs
Department of Homeland SecurityProviding information on arrival restrictions for certain foreign nationals
Department of StateSharing advisories for international travelers
Department of LaborProviding information to employers and workers on preparing workplaces and responding to COVID-19 in the workplace
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Providing information about disinfectants that can kill COVID-19 and facts about water safety
Consumer Financial Protection BureauGiving advice for managing the personal financial impact of coronavirus
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)Giving advice for deducting COVID-19 costs from your taxes
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)Alerting public to scam information

Federal departments supporting remote working for businesses, voting and elections technological support, digital communications, housing, and more are also involved in these all-hands-on-deck initiatives. However, the only way these measures will reach all citizens is through linguistic and cultural support. LSPs – especially those experienced in working with government agencies, life sciences, and healthcare – must be included as an integral part of our collective response to stop COVID-19.

LSPs Supporting The Utilities Sector

But even once the COVID-19 pandemic has been contained, we will continue to face a great many challenges. The United States alone is already preparing for “widespread disruptions in the energy sector, tightening demand, jeopardizing supply chains, diverting regulatory attention and negating previous growth forecasts for solar and storage deployment.”4  With work-from-home mandates now in place in a growing number of regions, there is now a much larger use of residential electricity during most hours of the day (and especially at peak hours). In order to help minimize widespread effects, utilities companies are now actively working on communicating their crisis management procedures to the general public:

  • Communicating Disaster Plans
  • Suspending Disconnects
  • Rolling out Flexible Payment Plans
  • Ensuring Continuity of Service
  • Enhancing Remote Customer Service Support
  • Sharing Best Practices for Demand Response

However, in order to ensure the general public is kept abreast of these measures and actively participates in best practices, utilities companies require the partnership and support of LSPs who are uniquely qualified to ensure all necessary information is accurately and quickly disseminated to the general public.

PGLS – We’re Here To Help

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power”, and as we find ourselves facing this unprecedented crisis, our job is to help keep communities connected and well informed. PGLS would like to extend a sincere appreciation to all LSPs worldwide for supporting the growing number of government agencies, volunteer organizations, and healthcare professionals on the frontlines battling COVID-19.

Tough times may certainly come and go, but the language services industry is here to stay. Please reach out to PGLS if we can be of any assistance to you or your organization.

REFERENCES

1 Berger, Nadia. “Ebola: a Crisis of Language.” Humanitarian Practice Network, odihpn.org/magazine/ebola-a-crisis-of-language/.

2 “About.” Worldometer, www.worldometers.info/about/.

3 “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response.” Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response | FEMA.gov, www.fema.gov/coronavirus.

4 Balaraman, Kavya. “’An Immediate and Dramatic Business Concern:’ How COVID-19 Is Disrupting the Energy Sector.” Utility Dive, 17 Mar. 2020, www.utilitydive.com/news/an-immediate-and-dramatic-business-concern-how-covid-19-is-disrupting-th/574262/.

In Addition To

“Years of Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks Error Processing SSI File.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Oct. 2019, www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/chronology.html.

“SARS.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Dec. 2017, www.cdc.gov/sars/index.html.

Horton, Alex. “Former Interpreters for U.S. Troops Wait out the State Department – and the Taliban – as Visas Decline.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Jan. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/01/23/14078814-1827-11e9-a804-c35766b9f234_story.html.

“Coronavirus Cases:” Worldometer, www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries.

“Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – United States, February 12–March 16, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm.

Karliner, Leah S, et al. “Do Professional Interpreters Improve Clinical Care for Patients with Limited English Proficiency? A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Health Services Research, Blackwell Science Inc, Apr. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1955368/.

“COVID-19.” USAGov, www.usa.gov/coronavirus.