Use Language to Fight COVID-19 Misinformation

We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.– Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO)

European woman and asian muslim woman working together on same project.

In India, people are being told the Coronavirus only survives on surfaces for 12 hours, so a 14-hour curfew will “break the chain” and nationalist politician Yogi Adityanath said yoga could cure it. Misinformation about COVID-19 identified by BBC Media Action includes rumors the disease can be prevented by shaving beards or drinking salt water, and that people can self diagnose by holding their breath.

Translators Without Borders (TWB) is working to translate reliable information from agencies, including WHO, into 12+ languages, while it monitors misinformation online, relaying the content to organizations like the World Health Organiation. It then translates the accurate information for the agencies to disseminate.

For fellow organizations responding to the outbreak, TWB has teamed up to create Connect: COVID-19, a weekly digest of quality resources & fact-checked information.

TWB needs COVID-19 translation support in the following languages and more:

– Chinese, Simplified and Traditional
– Thai
– Tagalog
– Bahasa Indonesian
– Vietnamese
– Korean
– Japanese
– Malay
– Myanmar (Burmese)
– Hindi
– Bangla

Apply to become a volunteer translator here.

People urgently need access to accurate information in a language and format they understand to make well-informed decisions during this pandemic.

TWB is using language to help people access health-related information in the following ways:

  • Translation: Working with partners to translate critical public-facing content in languages and formats that people understand; providing translation support in over 20 language pairs, focused predominantly on Asian languages. The list will be added to as the situation evolves.
  • Language data and mapping: In order to provide easily-understood information, organizations need to know which languages people speak and understand, and where. TWB is developing maps that visualize languages and literacy levels in affected countries, as a better basis for planning COVID-19 communications.
  • Social media monitoring: This pandemic is not only a crisis of health, it is also a crisis of misinformation. To help stop the spread of rumors and inaccurate information, we are monitoring COVID-19-related social media conversations in multiple languages. This will help public health experts better combat misinformation.
  • Terminology: We are identifying key terminology that people use to talk about COVID-19 as well as commonly-used technical terms. We will use this to develop a multilingual, plain-language glossary that can support public information efforts.

To get involved with TWB’s COVID-19 work or to request language services, please email Manmeet Kaur, TWB’s COVID-19 Response Lead, at [email protected].

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