Though the COVID-19 crisis continues, some activities are moving from a lockdown status to something closer to normalcy. Throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, and the rest of the country, America’s public and private sectors are cautiously reopening. While nothing is truly “normal,” duty and commitments call upon us to go back to providing services. Life goes on!
Making the best use of interpreting and translation services at this time will help you make a full recovery from the damage done by COVID-19. Let us share some important tips with you on how to navigate this period of recovery with the right mindset.
Continue to be crystal clear about precautions
The activities you engage in and the recommendations from public health authorities for keeping everyone healthy will almost certainly change over the next few months as they have been changing since the beginning of the pandemic. Be sure you review all communications with Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons to make sure they are very clear, so no one is unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19.
Remember the stress LEP community members may be under
Imagine yourself living in a foreign country that is suffering from a pandemic, a serious economic crisis, and political strife all at once, and you don’t fully speak the language. This is likely to create a high base level of stress and fear for anyone, and some of the LEP persons you may interact with also have the added concern of being undocumented. This all makes clear communication a high priority.
Use on-site interpreters if you can do so safely
In most situations, on-site interpretation is still the ideal modality. The best interpreting happens when a language professional can be in the room, hear clearly and see all the conversation cues, such as facial expressions. If possible, return to using onsite interpreters, so long as they are provided with proper PPE and are able to practice social distancing and other good health practices.
Consider using VRI if masks or PPE will cause problems
In some situations, the participants in a conversation will have to remain masked, which can make reading their facial cues more difficult. In these cases, you may consider using shields that allow facial expressions to be seen fully, or use video remote interpreting (VRI).
Plan for a possible return to lockdown
Once public health restrictions are removed, it can be difficult to put them back in place, but this may be necessary if a serious outbreak occurs. When you are planning future activities or preparing communications, take some time to consider what those should look like if a temporary lockdown occurs. Reach out to qualified translators and interpreters to ensure accurate messaging, and identify if this information is best conveyed orally or in writing.
Strengthen your marketing
If your organization is a business or nonprofit organization, now is the time to increase your marketing and other communications, if you have the resources and haven’t already done so. Do not underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on your organization. Studies show that those who maintain or increase their outreach in slow economic times tend to be much more successful than those who scale back. Remember, even organizations that needed little marketing pre-pandemic are now learning that the common denominator for success is visibility, creativity, and delivery of the best products or services.
If your marketing or other messaging will be directed at LEP communities, bringing a professional translator in early will give you confidence that your communications strike the intended tone, and avoid mistranslations.
Decide on your preferred normal
It will be a long time before our country looks like it did at this time last year. Consider how you want your organization to work in the immediate post- COVID world, and long-term. One of the items to consider is how translation and interpreting will be provided. When you use a local service with in-person interpreters, you can build a relationship, and their knowledge of your operation and those they interpret for will allow them to work with you more effectively. Local interpreters also have intimate knowledge of the local culture, including proper names, local companies, and other regionalisms. They may notice blind spots or errors that would be missed by interpreters you work with on an ad hoc basis.
Review and prepare for future crises
You’ve now been through the two-alarm fire of a major health and economic crisis, and you should know more about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses than before. Using that knowledge, consider what plans you can put in place for the next time trouble comes knocking. You might conduct another safety review like the one we described in a previous blog post. Preparation now will lead to peace of mind later.