Tip of the Week
Can Quebec’s cola wars offer a lesson for health care providers aspiring to connect with local audiences? Here’s an intriguing example of how speaking the right language — both culturally and orally — can reap huge results.
The case study is from the Canadian province of Quebec, where Pepsi sales had traditionally lagged way behind Coke. Quebec, of course, is an outlier in Canada, with its roots in French language and traditions. But instead of using ads tailored to local sensibilities, Pepsi had simply repurposed its other Canada advertising by dubbing the message into French.
Then it fired its interpreters and took on a new approach — building ads in French from the ground up with strong connections to Quebec cultural tropes. The result: Pepsi surged past Coke in sales.
Here’s an analysis from the New York Times that explains yet another reason why Black patients sometimes fail to get the treatment they need.
In Why a Hospital May Shun A Black Patient, University of Pennsylvania health policy professors Amol S. Navathe and
“The approach used most frequently by health insurers to remedy this,” Navathe and Schmidt write, “is to financially motivate hospitals to control costs and improve quality by tying payments to achieving these goals. The aim is laudable and some programs do benefit disadvantaged populations. The Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, for example, is a collaborative effort by Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurers to provide a fixed payment to rural hospitals each year for all the health care services they provide. Because they’re receiving a fixed payment, hospitals can worry less about which services are more profitable and instead focus on preserving access and improving care for rural populations, whose health outcomes have lagged behind those of urban counterparts.
“But because a vast majority of programs that tie payment to cost, and quality goals aren’t focused on disadvantaged populations, they create incentives for hospitals to avoid patients from these groups.
For example, in the 1990s, the New York State Department of Health began grading surgeons who performed coronary bypass surgery and making their report cards available to the general public. The aim was to make outcomes more transparent and to help surgeons improve. But to this day, the initiative makes it harder for Black patients to get surgery. Why? Because statistically, outcomes are generally worse for Black patients because of larger issues of systemic racism. So surgeons avoid them to protect their scores.”
Find out more about how good intentions reap unintended consequences by reading the complete piece here.
More tough times for would-be refugees ahead, as the Trump administration sets an all-time low limit on allowing those fleeing persecution in their home countries to enter the United States. Here’s an analysis from the Washington Post:
Here’s the best first stop when you’re looking for translated COVID-19 health education materials in languages most commonly spoken in Minnesota. Check out this Minnesota Department of Health web page that features a wide range of relevant video and print pieces in English, plus Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Hmong, Karen, Lao, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese.
Among the topics covered are safe use of masks, testing, what to do if you’re sick, how to protect yourself and others, managing illness at home, when you can return to work, hand hygiene and more.
Updates and additions make this site worth a look on a regular basis.
Take a look at this music video from the Hamilton Mixtape, inspired by the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, Hamilton. It’s a post-Labor Day salute to the risks and back-breaking work performed by immigrants to the US.
For more information about the thinking behind this video project, see this explanation by director Tomás Whitmore that appeared in BuzzFeed.
Wondering if there’s any conceivable upside to the pandemic? Check out this free webinar, What Can We Learn from Crisis? Leadership, Post-Traumatic Growth ad COVID-19. It’s set for 2 pm, Thur., Sept. 24. Register here.
Speakers Joe Parks, Medical Director of the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Elizabeth Guroff, Director of Trauma-Informed Services, National Council for Behavioral Health, will take a close look at the possibilities for post-trauma growth and explore ways to come out of this crisis ahead both personally and professionally.
Get a quick rundown on COVID-19 symptoms and advice on what to do next from the Minnesota Department of Health in the following languages here:
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Amharic (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Arabic (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Chinese (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Hmong (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Karen (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Lao (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Oromo (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Russian (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Somali (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Spanish (PDF)
- What to do if you have COVID-19 in Vietnamese (PDF)
The MInnesota Department of Health recently released a fascinating set of safety recommendations for the multi-day Hmong funerals that often draw a throng of participants from around the country.
Along with the typical injunctions — wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance, etc. — the guidance sheet hits some very specific notes on the minimum ingredients that remain necessary for a proper funeral. An example:
- Spiritual Guide’s song to guide the Decedent’s spirit back to the Ancestors.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song to acknowledge and confirm the death of the Decedent and prepare the Decedent for the Journey to the Ancestors.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song to hoist the Decedent onto his/her Winged Steed and to give him/her their offerings to take with them on their Journey to the Ancestors.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song to accompany the serving of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song offering additional spiritual live stocks, if any.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song offering money to the Decedent from Family members.
- Reed pipes (qeej) song signifying the departure from the funeral home to the final resting place of the Decedent.
Here’s a step both you and your clients can take to prepare for coronavirus infection that leaves you unable to care for your children. Draw up a written plan now that identifies possible caregivers and gathers vital family and child information. Then share it with people who need to know.
How to get all that done, with good advice along the way? Get assistance in English, Hmong, Spanish and Somali with Make a Plan, Minnesota — a roadmap through the process that includes a form that helps families gather information that a temporary caregiver will need.
This State of Minnesota site offers guidelines and a plan template, available here:
Find more COVID-19 information at staysafe.mn.gov/
A recent story in the StarTribune, People of color hit harder by COVID-19 in Twin Cities, ZIP code data confirm, describes another aspect of the bulging healthcare disparities file: Black and Hispanic Minnesotans make up five and six percent of the state population, but account for 20 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
These distinctions extend to the death rate, with people of color comprising 16 percent of the state population under age 64 but accounting for 63 percent of the deaths. For older people of color, the COVID-19 death rate is triple their share of the population.
What causes these disproportionate outcomes? “Lack of access to bare necessities and space to social distance has made stay-at-home orders challenging for households where one emergency could upend their finances or housing for months,” local experts told reporters. “The pandemic is forcing communities of color to confront longtime fears of doctors, hospitals and medical research; also, the lack of diversity among health professionals often makes them delay care.”
Looking for an insider’s view on immigrant and refugee life in Minnesota? Check out Sahan Journal, an independent non-profit that aims to “chronicle the struggles, successes and transformations of Minnesota’s new Americans, whose stories are often overlooked by traditional news organizations. As Minnesota becomes more diverse, Sahan will bring the stories of these immigrant groups to the mainstream, with the skill and deftness that they deserve.”
The free website is funded by the Knight Foundation, the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundations, the Facebook Journalism Project and the McKnight Foundation, among others. Recent coverage has included stories about the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities, the murder of an singer/political figure in Ethiopia that sparked outrage within the local Oromo community, and new Somali school principals.
Have a story you think Sahan Journal should know about? Contact Executive Director/Editor Mukhtar M. Ibrahim at firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you needed one more COVID-19 related worry, here’s a consideration from Wired magazine. What about the information needs of the millions of people worldwide who speak languages such as Kodava, Marathi, Oshie, Aghem or thousands of others — languages so obscure that they rarely qualify for translation, even when the information is a matter or life or death?
In the Wired article, COVID-19 Is History’s Biggest Translation Challenge, writer Gretchen McCulloch points out that to translate information merely into the primary language of the world’s regions, it would be necessary to produce material in up to 2,000 languages — still a far cry from the world’s estimated 7,000-plus languages.
McCulloch observes that despite the daunting nature of the task, efforts to address the translation shortfall are springing up around the globe. She writes, “Adivasi Lives Matter has been making info sheets in languages of India including Kodava, Marathi, and Odia. The government of Australia’s Northern Territory has been producing videos in First Nations languages including Yol?u Matha, Pintupi-Luritja, and Warlpiri. Seattle’s King County has been producing fact sheets in languages spoken by local immigrant and refugee communities, such as Amharic, Khmer, and Marshallese. VirALLanguages has been producing videos in languages of Cameroon, including Oshie, Aghem, and Bafut, starring well-known community members as local “influencers.”
McCulloch’s optimistic conclusion: COVID-19 “is the first pandemic in human history where we’ve had an understanding of diseases and hygiene, where we’ve actually known what we needed to do to hold it off for long enough to develop a vaccine… This is also, therefore, the first pandemic in human history where we have the power and the responsibility to share this understanding, a network of linguistic care that ultimately spans every corner of the globe.”
After filing a Freedom of Information Act request for COVID-19-related data from the Centers for Disease Control, the New York Times received files on 1.5 million cases, which gave it the basis for a shocking analysis on the disparate rates of infection among US racial groups.
The Times‘ conclusion: “Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.”
The piece, “The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus,” includes a clickable map that shows infection rates for individual counties. For example, in Hennepin County, the infection rate is 27 per thousand for whites, and 23 per thousand for Asians. But for Blacks the rate is 146 per thousand; for Hispanics it’s 135 per thousand, and for Natives it’s 73 per thousand.
The Times continues: “The higher rate in deaths from the virus among Black and Latino people has been explained, in part, by a higher prevalence of underlying health problems, including diabetes and obesity. But the new C.D.C. data reveals a significant imbalance in the number of virus cases, not just deaths — a fact that scientists say underscores inequities unrelated to other health issues.
“‘The focus on comorbidities makes me angry, because this really is about who still has to leave their home to work, who has to leave a crowded apartment, get on crowded transport, and go to a crowded workplace, and we just haven’t acknowledged that those of us who have the privilege of continuing to work from our homes aren’t facing those risks,’ said Dr. Mary Bassett, the Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.
“Dr. Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner, said there is no question that underlying health problems — often caused by factors that people cannot control, such as lack of access to healthy food options and health care — play a major role in Covid-19 deaths.
“But she also said a big determinant of who dies is who gets sick in the first place, and that infections have been far more prevalent among people who can’t work from home. ‘Many of us also have problems with obesity and diabetes, but we’re not getting exposed, so we’re not getting sick,’ she said.”
The COVID pandemic has revealed, again, the tremendous racially-based disparities in US health outcomes, with death rates among black and latinx populations much higher than those for whites. Here’s a thought-provoking piece from the New York Times, “Many Medical Decision Tools Disadvantage Black Patients,” that explains how disparities get baked into the system of medicine via tools, software and formulas that dictate care.
This is the nub of the Times‘ story: “Unbeknown to most patients, their race is incorporated into numerous medical decision-making tools and formulas that doctors consult to decide treatment for a range of conditions and services, including heart disease, cancer and maternity care, according to a new paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“The unintended result, the paper concludes, has been to direct medical resources away from black patients and to deny some black patients treatment options available to white patients.
“The tools are often digital calculators on websites of medical organizations or — in the case of assessing kidney function — actually built into the tools commercial labs use to calculate normal values of blood tests. They assess risk and potential outcomes based on formulas derived from population studies and modeling that looked for variables associated with different outcomes.
“’These tests are woven into the fabric of medicine,’ said Dr. David Jones, the paper’s senior author, a Harvard historian who also teaches ethics to medical students.”
Get the low down on best practices for mask use from this short video provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. It’s available in ASL, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Lao, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese with YouTube links from this MDH web page.
At the same MDH site you can also find similarly brief and to-the-point translated videos on other coronavirus topics, including Basic Safety, Testing, How to Wash Your Hands, and Cleaning Your Hands with Hand Sanitizer.
Among the changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic is the sudden increased reliance on telemedicine. In the article Telehealth Wasn’t Designed for Non-English Speakers, the online news organization The Verge considers the effect on patients who struggle with English.
Here’s the nub of the Verge’s analysis: Participating in a successful telemedicine visit is tough enough if you speak English, own the equipment, can afford data service and possess technical and language skills that allow you to navigate through sometimes complex instructions. But if you don’t have English language capacity, lack the necessary device and can’t afford a web hook-up, you’re out of luck.
The concerns go beyond the immediate COVID crisis, says Alejandra Casillas, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health quoted in the article. “Casillas worries about her patients’ exposure to COVID-19, but she’s also worried about their other health conditions,” The Verge reported. “Non-English speakers in the US already are more likely to have chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and they’re more often poorly controlled. Any disruption in care could widen the gaps.
“‘That’s the concern with digital health,’ Casillas told The Verge. ‘That it’ll improve health care for some people, but for others, it’ll throw up more barriers. Digital health is a great thing. But we haven’t been as good or intentional in thinking about how it works in different populations, she says. ‘The limited English speaking population isn’t a small group. And we’ve left them out.’”
Here’s an interesting COVID infection control animation from Sanford Medicine that tells patients and caretakers what they need to know without the use of words. Well worth a look for both the information conveyed, and for alternate methods of presenting information to people who speak many of the languages of the world.
History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it often rhymes, observes the crew at Open Culture in recounting Japanese efforts during the Spanish flu epidemic to quell the disease. The article on the Open Culture website — Japanese Health Manual Created During the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic Offers Timeless Wisdom: Stay Away from Others, Cover Your Mouth and Nose, and More — offers a fascinating look at how little has changed in more than 100 years.
Reproductions of health information posters on the Open Culture site are worth a click through by themselves. The posters were part of Japan’s Central Sanitary Bureau’s plan to educate the public. Its 455-page manual detailed symptoms and prescriptions, and suggested four rules to avoid contracting the virus that will sound familiar to readers today.
Find a variety of COVID-19 related posters appropriate for health care settings at this Minnesota Department of Health website.
Available in English, Amharic, Hmong, Oromo, Russian, Somali and Spanish, these pieces describe the idea of flattening the curve of infection, illustrate the schedule for reopening the state, list steps to practice social distancing, give directions on where to get tested, and more.
Here’s an extensive directory of COVID-19 translated fact sheets, flyers, posters, audio recordings, videos and more, all available for download here. Compiled by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, these resources appear in 73 languages including English.
The translated materials are from United States government entities, International non-government agencies, community based organizations, and countries outside the United States.
Didn’t find what you need the first time around? Check back, since the directory’s organizers say the directory is updated on a regular basis.
BONUS TIP: The Minneapolis community newspaper North News offers a insightful story on how Hmong funeral practices have been disrupted by COVID-19. Multi-day ceremonies that often draw hundreds of mourners from across the country are impossible under the recent lockdowns. For a look at how families are adjusting, see Hmong families delay funerals to wait out social distancing rules.
Do patients know what you’re talking about? Especially now, in the scramble to deal with the coronavirus crisis, language access issues can expose patients, interpreters and the broader public to increased risk, according to an analysis in US News and World Report.
In Language Access Issues a Barrier During COVID-19, reporter Gaby Galvin observes, “Roughly 25 million people in the U.S. speak no or limited English, and language access has been a long-simmering problem in medical offices, hospitals and the public health field at large. But in the age of COVID-19, with hospitals in some areas scrambling even to treat patients, sick people don’t always have access to interpreters, and interpreters don’t always have access to crucial protective gear like masks.
“In good times, effective language access is often not the top priority,” says Mara Youdelman, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who works on these issues. “So when you’ve compounded it with all of the stresses on the health care system right now, it just falls lower and lower down the list.”
Sketchy procedures for interpretation can lead to delays and errors in delivering care, plus increased risk not only for interpreters but also the patients with whom they come in contact. Read the complete story here.
Do you have limited-English patients who want answers about the City of Saint Paul’s response to the coronavirus pandemic? A new phone line at 651-266-6000 is staffed with interpreters available to answer questions in Hmong, Karen, Oromo, Somali and Spanish. You can also get more information via email at LanguageResources@ci.
If you’re looking for written COVID-19 related health education material in English and 21 additional languages, check out the Minnesota Department of Health’s offerings here.
BONUS TIP: What’s the most commonly spoken language in Minnesota and other states after English and Spanish? Take a look at this map from Business Insider for the sometimes surprising answers.
Among the dislocations of the COVID-19 pandemic is the effect on health system interpreters, who are discovering new complexities in the already fraught world of medical interpretation. As revealed in the New York Times story, When Coronavirus Care Gets Lost in Translation, interpreters are increasingly called on to work over the phone in consideration of the lack of protective equipment and the risk of infection. This already difficult situation is rendered more complex by the distance providers attempt to put between themselves and their patients, the muffling effect of masks, and the hiss of oxygen tanks.
“Someone’s oxygen can be dropping and I have to get an interpreter on the phone, wait on hold, put in an access code, tell them where I am,” one Boston doctor said. “It’s hard for the patient. Imagine you’re in a loud room with a mask blowing oxygen in your face at 15 liters a minute and you feel crummy. You can’t comprehend things as much.”
The piece explores this as another health care disparity issue that results in poorer outcomes for non-white patients. Patient advocate Vonessa Costa told the Times, “A pandemic is not the time to build working systems.” She worried about the millions of limited English patients across the country who are now or will be struggling for access to care.
The Seattle-based nonprofit, Vital Talk, specializes in building communication skills for healthcare professionals. With the COVID outbreak, it recognized a vast new sector of work. “We’re facing conversations that we never expected — or wanted — to have,” the group announced as it made available a guide that covers topics such as triaging, counseling, grieving and much more.
This resource is available in English and 21 additional languages. In it you’ll find what Vital Talk calls “practical advice on how to talk about some difficult topics related to COVID-19” that it’s built on two decades of communication research and teaching, plus consultation with clinicians in the grip of Seattle’s struggle with COVID.
Get the low down on non-verbal communication in the United Arab Emirates with this demonstration of six hand moves that pack in a lot of information. Confused, threatened, threatening and more — you can get it all across with these maneuvers.
MORE COVID-19 MATERIALS: Looking for more translated patient information sheets regarding coronavirus? Check out the Public Health — King County and Seattle website, which features among other resources translated descriptions of the latest health recommendations. These pieces are offered in 23 languages, including English. Find them here. (Scroll down slightly and check the right margin.)
Here’s another batch of translated COVID-19 material, this time with information vetted by Harvard Medical School faculty and physicians. Available in English and 39 additional languages, the pieces include:
- COVID-19 Prevention
- About COVID-19
- Managing COVID-19
- COVID-19 and Pregnancy
- COVID-19 for 3-6 year olds
- COVID-19 for 6-12 year olds
- COVID19 for 13-18 year olds
These pieces are downloadable and free for use without copyright restrictions. Find them here.
Bonus Tip: Read about efforts by the Minnesota Department of Health and other organizations to reach out to Minnesota’s limited English speakers with COVID-19 information in this StarTribune story, Minnesota seeks to help immigrant residents cope with COVID-19. Among those featured in the piece is Danushka Wanduragala, who was for many years the Department’s liaison to the Exchange.
Thorough hand washing is touted as a major step your patients can take to beat back coronavirus. But how many of them really know how to get the job done? Here’s a series of videos in translation from the Minnesota Department of Health that show how to do it right.
- How to Wash Your Hands Video Transcript: English (PDF)
- How to Wash Your Hands: Audio Described: English (YouTube)
- How to Wash Your Hands: Vietnamese (YouTube)
Looking for another option? Take a look at this video that offers a graphic representation on what it takes to clean every part of your hands.
Get half-hour long interpreted descriptions of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect in Minnesota in these videos produced by ECHO/TPT (Twin Cities Public Television).
In addition, check out these new print pieces from the Washington State Department of Health, downloadable on their website:
Be a germ buster, wash your hands, in Arabic, English, Khmer, Nepali, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese
How can I be prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak, in Arabic, English, Khmer, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese
What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Arabic, English, Khmer, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Caregivers, in Arabic, English, Spanish, Vietnamese
What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Arabic, English, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese
Symptoms of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) and have not been around anyone diagnosed, in Arabic, English, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese
These pieces can also be found in the Exchange library.
Here’s another batch of coronavirus-related information that may help you communicate with patients with limited English.
The Minnesota Department of Health just added new basic overviews of COVID19 in Amharic, Hmong and Karen to a list that already included translations in Arabic, English, Chinese, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese. MDH also added Amharic, Hmong and Karen versions of its information sheet, Resources to Find Low-Cost Health Care or Get Health Insurance, to a library that includes Arabic, English, Chinese, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese versions. Find them at the MDH site here.
MDH also offers a simple Wash Your Hands poster in 24 languages, including English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Nepali, Oromo, Ojibwe, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Thai, and Vietnamese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides additional hand-washing posters in multiple languages, with versions for adults teens and children, here.
Looking for ways to reinforce your message about Coronavirus to patients who don’t speak English? Get one-page information sheets from the Minnesota Department of Health in Arabic, Chinese, English, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese at this MDH web page, and also in the Exchange library using the search term Coronavirus Disease 2019. These pieces describe symptoms, how to protect yourself and your community, and links to learn more.
In both locations you can also download Resources to Find Low Cost Health Care or Get Health Insurance in Amharic, Arabic, English, Hmong, Karen, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.
How can you adapt mental health practices to fit your clients’ languages and cultures? Get help at a free cultural adaptation event, 2-4 pm, Tuesday, March 17, at the University of St. Thomas’ McNeely Hall, MCH 100. 2060 Summit Ave., St. Paul.
The event is hosted by St. Thomas’ Area of Emphasis in Practice with Immigrants and Refugees (AEIR) scholars. The program will feature three speakers from different cultural communities, including:
- Pahoua Yang, MSSW, PhD, LICSW, LP, Vice President, Community Mental Health and Wellness at Wilder Foundation (pictured, right)
- Ahmed Hassan, MA, EdD, Psychotherapist/Program Director at Summit Guidance Center
- Novia Josiah, ’18 MSW and AEIR scholar, CVT (The Center for Victims of Torture)
Because of limited space, advance registration is required. Register here.
And the answer is … well, no one really knows, according to writer Dan Nosowitz in the online journal Atlas Obscura. “This question, frankly, is a nightmare,” Nosowitz observes. But on his way to leaving the question dangling, he provides insight into how we use subtle visual clues to make sense of spoken language.
For example, consider this innate ability of babies. They will spend more time watching a muted video of a person speaking what will become their native tongue than they will of a person speaking another language.
Or stop to puzzle over the McGurk Effect, named for the researcher who stumbled upon it in the 1970s. “Say there’s a video of a person saying nonsense syllables: ‘gaga,’ but the audio has been swapped with the same person saying ‘baba,'” Nosowitz writes. “Subjects are asked to watch the video and identify which sound is being spoken. Bizarrely, most people perceive —using both eyes and ears—something else altogether: ‘dada.’”
Wonder sometimes why interpreters seem to be scratching their heads? Watch a group of Spanish speakers struggle to find English equivalents to Spanish expressions in this video from the Pero Like YouTube channel.
Part of the BuzzFeed online juggernaut, Pero Like features content that focuses on Latinx culture. Among a staggering number of video shorts are titles such as, If Spanish Insults Were Said in English, Threats Latina Moms Say, and Which Spanish Accent is Sexiest? You’ll also find life stories, cooking segments and dissections of cultural events such as the quinceañera celebration.
Just in time to fill in the linguistic subtleties involved when Iranians employ the phrase, “Death to America,” the Iranian-American Pontia analyses the many common uses of the Persian word for death when Iranians are insulting or questioning others, or justifying their own actions.
Here’s Pontia’s self-description: She “writes and blogs about all things Iran: culture, language, and travel. She was born and raised in the US and has lived in Tehran for four years, the combination of which gives her an unbiased perspective on Iran and a unique ability to explain cultural nuances to foreigners. A teacher and lifelong learner, she delivers cultural explainers and language tips for Iranophiles.”
Consider the poem, A une Damoyselle Malade (To a Sick Young Lady), written in 1537 by Clemont Marot for the daughter of a queen. Twenty eight lines, three syllables per line. How complicated can it be to translate from French to English?
The answer: plenty complicated. Douglas Hofstadter, author of the wildly acclaimed 1999 non-fiction title, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, takes on this question in a podcast featured on the NPR program, Radiolab.
“What kind of of crazy things can happen when you translate crazy texts,” Hofstadter asks. He set off of a project to translate the poem himself, then conscripted 60 others to take on the job. Soon he found himself embroiled in questions regarding tone and form — how do you preserve the feel of the poem, the lightness and good cheer — amid the myriad possibilities offered by the English language?
While not immediately analogous to the problems faced by medical interpreters and translators, this is another, interesting take on the complexity of translation. “What is translation?” Hofstadter finally asks. “And can it be done?”
Hofstadter’s interview, titled 100 Flowers, is part of an hour-plus presentation that features seven other related segments.
Who doesn’t wonder what “Jingle Bells” sounds like when played by Mongolian musicians on traditional instruments, dressed in an impressive collection of fur hats, while gathered around a campfire in a snow-filled woods? Santa Claus also makes an appearance in this definitive version of the holiday classic.
Best wishes to all for the year to come!
Here’s a New York Times rundown on states responding to a recent Trump administration executive order that gives governors the right to refuse to accept new refugees.
Governors find themselves squeezed between faith-based groups that urge them to decide that there’s room in the inn for refugees, and immigration policy hard liners. So far more than 30 governors have agreed to accept additional refugees, the Times notes. But about a dozen Republican governors have kept quiet as a January 21 decision deadline draws near.
Learn more about the 100-year history of the International Institute of Minnesota and its present and future challenges in a StarTribune story, Minnesota refugee aid center’s future in flux at 100.
The piece offers a look at the organization’s evolution, which reads like a laundry list of the world’s turmoil. Founded to assist European refugees from World War I, the Institute’s clientele became persecuted Japanese Americans during World War II, Hmong refugees after the collapse of the Vietnam conflict, Somalis following unrest in East Africa, and more recently Karen from Myanmar.
The story sketches out the effect of new restrictions on refugee entry to the US imposed by the Trump administration, both for refugees themselves and the organizations that serve them, plus the prospect of increased fees for immigrants applying for citizenship.
Here’s a case of dueling conclusions that start from the same statistics, as sketched out in the newsletter, Intersect, published by the Cross Cultural Communications. The firm, which specializes in interpreter training, offers a back-handed compliment to the anti-immigrant think-tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, for research that shows the rapid growth in US households where a language other than English is spoken. This is how Cross Cultural Communications put it:
|“The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) posts itself as “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.” But CIS is widely perceived as anti-immigration.
Still and anon—they have some great stats to share. The numbers come from on an analysis of just-released 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, to whit:
In short, the sky is falling.
CIS clearly isn’t fond of these statistics, except perhaps to stoke fear. But America must hone its linguistics chops and develop multilingual citizens or suffer economically (and in other ways) in the rapid globalization of the planet.
So we’re happy to share these lovely stats. They give us hope for a linguistically and culturally rich America. Thank you, CIS!
Get a rundown on the Twin Cities area growing Congolese population in the StarTribune story, Congolese find home in Minnesota.
Swept up in the armed conflicts of Central Africa that have driven millions from their homes, the local Congolese are part of the 13,000 refugees approved for resettlement in the US this year. Overall, the number of Minnesota-bound refugees has decreased under new restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, with 818 making the state their first stop in the US during 2018. Of those, 77 were from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2019, 145 Congolese have arrived in Minnesota. (See a 2018 county-by-county breakdown of primary refugee resettlement.)
The StarTribune story includes a brief description of the solace that churches have provided to the Congo community, and the cultural challenges Congolese face in moving from an African community-based culture to the more fragmented environment they confront here.
Yet another sign that the future is catching up with us fast: the availability of interpretation devices that fit in your ear and instantly render foreign languages into your own.
A recent article in the New York Times, The Latest in Translation Devices, describes two additions to what is likely to be a booming market — the WT2 Plus Ear to Ear AI Translator Earbuds from Timekettle, and the “Ambassador” from Wavery Labs. Both rely on a pair of wireless earpieces that are synced to a single smartphone connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data.
The Times article quotes Graham Neubig, an assistant professor at the Language Technologies Institute of Carnegie Mellon University and an expert in machine learning and natural language processing, who says, “These devices ‘bring us a bit closer to being able to travel to places in the world where people speak different languages and communicate smoothly with those who are living there.'” At the same time, the Times story makes it clear that human translators and interpreters will not be replaced by this generation of devices.
Care to geek out on the technology behind this leap in the processing and rendering of speech and writing? Check out a story in the New Yorker that delves into an explanation of machine learning while attempting to answer the question, Can a machine learn to write for the New Yorker? (The answer: not quite yet.)
Among life’s Tower-of-Babel puzzlements: why do so many words exist in different languages for the same thing? The website Open Culture answers one very narrow version of this question by taking on the reasons why tea is called something like tea in certain places, and something more like cha in many others.
In this case the answer relates to Silk Road trade routes established millennia ago, and more recent European trading dating to the 1500s. Find out more here.
Take a look at this New York Times story, A Steady Paycheck Is Good Medicine for Communities, to get another view on how the medical industry can help improve the health not only of individuals, but of entire communities.
The piece describes the work of Healthcare Anchor Network, a consortium of 41 medical systems spread across the US, plus four government providers. Locally, Fairview is a member. The group’s goal is to find more ways of doing business with local communities that these providers serve. They’re “investing in the notion that ample paychecks, stable housing and nutritious food are no less critical to well-being than doctors, medical equipment and pharmacies,” the Times’ reporter Peter S. Goodman observes.
The initiative has resulted in redirection of contracts from large national firms to locally-owned companies, housing programs that assure stability, job training, subsidized day care and more. “The basic goal among the participants in the Healthcare Anchor Network is to shift their spending to local companies, keeping the wealth close by,” Goodman writes.
The complete text is worth checking out for a close description of how health institutions can reach beyond their walls and into nearby central city communities where residents are often scrambling for a path toward decent housing and employment that pays better than peanuts.
Looking for a way to communicate the importance of hepatitis B immunizations? Check out the Hepatitis B Foundation‘s collection of videos that tell the stories of people touched by the disease.
Find the video gallery here. Among the collected pieces are versions in:
- Vietnamese/English (see the stories of Xuan, Dai, Kim, Michelle and MD),
- Khmer/English (Chenda’s story),
- Mongolian/English (Tuya’s story),
- Tagalog/English (Espi’s story),
- Arabic/English (Sura’s story),
- Mandarin/English (Kat, Jacki and Alan’s stories),
- Cantonese/English (Alice’s story),
- Twi/English (Bright’s story),
- Korean/English (Carolyn and Nancy’s stories).
The organization’s website also includes a number of written stories, plus background information on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management, with links to support groups and other resources.
Here’s another item to stuff into your Brave New World file — a hand-held translation device that, according to Bloomberg News, is taking Japan by storm and is also now available in the US. (“Tourists are fueling a boom in personal translation devices”)
The $299 product can be worn around the neck, and is capable of translating phrases to and from 74 languages. With a tourist boom that brings 31 million visitors to Japan each year, shop owners looking for additional profit need a way to communicate with customers. The Pocketalk device allows store keepers to capture a spoken phrase from foreign customers, which it then translates into Japanese (or, for that matter, English or any of the other supported languages).
Does it work? Amazon.com reviews paint a mixed picture, with some users complaining that the device is too slow and cumbersome, while others describe it as hugely helpful. Machines aren’t ready to replace the subtle understanding and nuance that human interpreters bring to complex medical encounters. But if all you really want is a platter of sushi in Tokyo…?
Wondering how to say “How are you? Are you fine?” in Tamashek? Or, “How are you doing? How are you feeling?” in Fulfulde? Here’s a chance to satisfy your curiosity.
Check out this interactive website on Google Earth that features 55 speakers of indigenous languages who share traditional greetings, sayings and songs. (Word of caution: you need the Chrome browser installed for this site to work properly.)
Get this glimpse of threatened languages while you can: according to the United Nations, of the world’s 7,000 tongues, 2,680 indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing.
Looking for ways to better serve refugee kids in your mentoring programs? Here’s a free webinar open to all refugee service providers, including those working at state agencies, resettlement agencies or other organizations.
Set for noon through 1 pm, Wednesday, July 31, this webinar is presented by Switchboard, a one-stop resource hub for US refugee service providers.
Participating in this session will give you information you need to:
- Describe key findings from the evidence-base for youth mentoring programs;
- Identify critical features of effective youth mentoring programs, particularly related to programs for older Office of Refugee Resettlement-eligible youth populations; and
- Incorporate features of effective mentoring programs into your youth mentoring program.
Facilitators include Ashmeet K. Oberoi, Ph.D., Director of the Community and Social Change Masters Program, at the University of Miami and Sara Rowbottom, Education & Youth Technical Advisor, International Rescue Committee, with other speakers to be determined.
Well, unlike the states of North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Colorado, it’s not German.
The US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey annually asks more than a million Americans questions about their lives, families, and backgrounds — including the language they primarily speak in their homes.
Here’s an inside look at a skilled interpreter’s complicated work. This video focuses on interpreting in a diplomatic environment as it explains the advantages and pitfalls in simultaneous and consecutive interpretation — but the lessons are broadly applicable to the medical world as well. Along the way you’ll learn the difference between chuchotage and décalage, and also find out why all too often telling a joke through an interpreter is a dumb idea.