Language should never be a barrier.

Sep 29, 2020 · 3 min read

An article by Luke Cadman

Image credit: coralrose

Communication: The imparting and exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. Et si tu ne parles pas la même langue? (that’s “But what if you don’t speak the same language?” for you non-French speakers out there).

Australia’s population of about 23.4 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. At the 2016 Census, 3.5%, or in more personal terms, 820,000 people in Australia either ‘don’t speak English’ or ‘don’t speak English very well.’ 820,000 is an astonishing number of people who are unlikely to be able to clearly if at all, understand a message they are given in English.

At times when a clear and well-understood message is critical, for those who aren’t able to receive the message due to language barriers, it can be a confusing and scary time — especially when it comes to health. Public health. Global public health. Enter: COVID-19.

Think what you may, but as a Brit who has seen the chaos and impact COVID-19 has had on my home country, Australia’s response to the pandemic was fast and decisive. On a daily basis, there were unprecedented announcements regarding measures being taken to secure public health. And for them to succeed, everybody needed to hear, understand, and adhere to them. But what if you couldn’t? It would be terrifying. The country which you call home is changing drastically and you have little-to-no idea what’s happening.

In our COVID-19 response campaign with the RACGP, we wanted to make sure that the public understood that GPs were still available to provide expert advice with all COVID and non-COVID related health issues. We wanted to make sure the public knew how to access their GPs during this time. We wanted to make sure the public felt able, and importantly, safe to continue to access the healthcare they needed. Remember those 820,000 people mentioned earlier? They’re part of ‘the public’ too so we couldn’t leave them behind.

On our site, we included information in five of the most commonly spoken foreign languages, to ensure that speakers of those languages who didn’t speak English well could still receive the important messages around the availability of GPs through this time. Working closely with NAATI translators, we provided information about why GPs can be trusted as experts and can help with any health condition, the many ways they can be accessed, the safety measures in place to protect patient wellbeing, and that COVID-19 testing is available free for anybody in Australia. All really important information for people to have during this time, I’m sure you’d agree.

As the definition at the beginning of this article states, communication is an exchange — not just a broadcast. So when creating a message you want everybody to hear, especially when it’s critical information, it’s vital to ensure your message not only reaches as many people as possible but that it can also be understood by as many people as possible.

See how simple making communications accessible to everyone can be here:

Invent Better