Ensuring equal access for vulnerable communities during COVID-19 and beyond

Ensuring equal access for vulnerable communities during COVID-19 and beyond

At LanguageLoop, we deliver interpreting and translation services to give the 21% of Australians who speak a language other than English a voice so they can participate in society. We strive to provide equal access to government and business services, so millions of non-English speakers around the country can engage with the businesses that serve them. We do this via our network of 3,000 interpreters across 180 languages and by using the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As we remain in a State of Emergency across Australia due to COVID-19, the Government and businesses across the nation need to ensure the five million + Australians who speak a language other than English have access to critical health, travel and economic information. While it is common to see Auslan (Australian sign-language) interpreters for national addresses, key government and business initiatives risk being lost in translation for a large percentage of the population.

With 300 languages spoken in Australian homes, over 20% of Australians are potentially being left in the dark with some essential government and business (utility/financial) services available only in English. These initiatives and information are crucial to the livelihood of all Australians and therefore need to be easily accessible in at least the top languages of our diverse population.

We suddenly have new words entering the lexicon such as ‘social-distancing’, ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘droplet transmission,’ along with somewhat confusing and rapidly changing information about what you can and can’t do under a State of Emergency/Stage 3 restrictions. These new terms and concepts need to be translated into multiple languages and language experts need to build new awareness around what these terms actually mean for our vast multicultural communities, some of whom may already be vulnerable.

Further, at a time of vulnerability, our multilingual communities need to know how to engage with businesses to make changes to arrangements e.g. mortgage repayments and utility bills. Most organisations in these fields have specialist knowledge (e.g. financial hardship) and options available to their customers, however they also need to be in-language to ensure full accessibility.

Although it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, language is an obvious competitive advantage—especially with technology such as AI and automation now making translations very cost effective. As most business strive to deliver the ultimate ‘personalisation’ experience for their customers, surely language is the foundation of personalisation?

Our most recent Language Matters Study (2019) found that the overwhelming majority (90%) of multilingual Australians would “recommend a business that offered their customer services in multiple languages to family, friends and the wider community.” This study found a further 74% would “be more loyal to an Australian business that could talk to them in their own language” and another 74% would “give their custom to an Australian business on the basis that they or a family member could interact in their own language”. Nearly two thirds (60%) believed that “being able to talk to a business in their own language is as important as cost” and 74% would “buy more services or products from a business if they could deal with them in their own language”.

In an environment where businesses are clearly struggling, language is not only a key element to ensuring equal access to essential services but also a strong business strategy to increase revenue. With overseas migration accounting for 55% of Australia’s population growth, economists forecast that migrants will contribute an estimated $1.6 trillion to the Australian economy by 2050. Therefore businesses who look after their multilingual customers will see their efforts reflected in their bottom line.

About LanguageLoop
LanguageLoop is Australia’s leading language services business and only full-service language provider. LanguageLoop’s extensive network of over 3,000 interpreters and translators speak over 180 languages. With over 40 years’ experience, LanguageLoop is trusted by Australia’s state and federal governments and leading brands including AGL, Energy Australia, The Westpac Group, IAG and others. Every year, LanguageLoop helps organisations connect with over 500,000 non-English speakers though its extensive range of services including on-site, telephone and on-demand video interpreting, translations, 24/7 multilingual chat bots and other digital language solutions. For more information visit languageloop.com.au.

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