I wrote an article for Wired in which I got to talk with a lot of really interesting people about the importance of language to public health: Covid-19 Is History’s Biggest Translation Challenge.
You, a person who’s currently on the English-speaking internet in The Year of The Pandemic, have definitely seen public service information about Covid-19. You’ve probably been unable to escape seeing quite a lot of it, both online and offline, from handwashing posters to social distancing tape to instructional videos for face covering.
But if we want to avoid a pandemic spreading to all the humans in the world, this information also has to reach all the humans of the world—and that means translating Covid PSAs into as many languages as possible, in ways that are accurate and culturally appropriate.
It’s easy to overlook how important language is for health if you’re on the English-speaking internet, where “is this headache actually something to worry about?” is only a quick Wikipedia article or WebMD search away. For over half of the world’s population, people can’t expect to Google their symptoms, nor even necessarily get a pamphlet from their doctor explaining their diagnosis, because it’s not available in a language they can understand. […]
According to a regularly updated list maintained by the Endangered Languages Project, Covid information from reputable sources (such as governments, nonprofits, and volunteer groups that clearly cite the sources of their health advice) has been created in over 500 languages and counting, including over 400 videos in more than 150 languages. A few of these projects are shorter, more standardized information in a larger variety of global languages, such as translating the five WHO guidelines into posters in more than 220 languages or translating the WHO’s mythbuster fact sheets into over 60 languages. But many of them, especially the ones in languages that aren’t as well represented on the global stage, are created by individual, local groups who feel a responsibility to a particular area, including governments, nonprofits, and volunteer translators with a little more education or internet access.
The Lingthusiasm main episode was about tracing languages back before recorded history (transcript) and the bonus episode was about doing linguistics with kids. We also released new nonmedical face masks, by popular request, in our IPA, tree diagram, and esoteric symbol prints. It’s a weird world where suddenly face masks are our most popular merch item, but we’re heartened to hear from people that it makes them feel a bit more cheerful about wearing a mask.
We also announced the winners of the 2020 LingComm Grants! We had over 75 applications from around the world and we’d like to thank all applicants for making the job of deciding extremely difficult! Stay tuned for further updates from these great projects:
- The Black Language Podcast (Anansa Benbow)
- Nonbinary Linguistics youtube channel (Nina Lorence-Ganong)
- Jazicharnica (Јазичарница) blog (Nina Tunteva and Viktorija Blazheska)
- War of Words podcast (Juana de los Santos, Angela Makeviciuz, Antonella Moschetti, Néstor Bermúdez)
- userlike.com – mention – 6/2
- CNN – mention “Why we can’t stop waving at the end of video calls” – 6/23
- TheRemindsMe – feature –6/17 (podcast)
- zandlslant.com – roundup –6/12 (newsletter/blog)
- cognitionandculture.net – mention – 6/15 (newsletter/blog)
- A list of podcast episodes featuring Black linguists talking about various topics
- Prepositions paired with “fuck”
- Over-the-top adjective names for birds: the birding/linguistics crossover I’ve been waiting for
- Clearing things off the chair and other trivial adjustments
- Space/coffee: new favourite example of word boundary ambiguity
- the spot/spought merger
- Long Hundred: a cursèd and entirely real Wikipedia article (thread about numbers)
Selected blog posts:
- A TEDx talk by John Baugh on linguistic profiling
- How do you sign “Black Lives Matter” in ASL?
- Linguistics jobs: dance instructor and stay-at-home mom
- A meme taxonomy
- How to tell apart various languages that use the Arabic script
- A linguistic perspective: The harmful effects of responding ‘All lives matter’ to ‘Black lives matter’
- 68:Hazard:Cold, a short story by Janelle Shane which does interesting things with language
This month’s image is one of the new IPA masks, which I now also own! They’re made out of a soft, jersey-like material and are pretty comfortable for short wear.