The lifestyle, role and challenges of translators and interpreters during the pandemic COVID-19

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Currently, there is no person who may not have heard of COVID-19 at least once in a lot of different contexts and interpretations. Under the conditions of global crisis, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, both the sectors of economic activity and all spheres of life have been and continue to be somewhat affected.
In this post, we meant to talk about how the lifestyle of translation specialists has changed, what is their role in practicing the demanding job of translator / interpreter during the pandemic and the challenges they face in the last period.

  • The lifestyle – reality or adaptation?

The coronavirus pandemic totally blindsided everyone. Creating panic, then instability, it seems to have omitted neither translators nor interpreters. If we’re talking about their lifestyle and activity during the pandemic, we can see that the translators did not feel much change, but the interpreters shall adapt volens nolens, to the new working conditions.

While the work of translators revolved around the fact that they translated from home, or in the office, going on in the same way, then interpreters, who yesterday were in the “epicenter” of major official events, today are those who have to adapt to a new reality (either to switch to written or verbal translations, but remotely).

Given that a big chunk of the planned events were postponed for “peaceful” times, however, a large part was displaced in online environment. Such virtual platforms as Zoom, Google Classroom, Messenger Rooms, etc. help us for that purpose.

  • The role – important or crucial?

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly pervaded our daily lexicon. A couple of months ago, we have learned new terms such as COVID-19, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and flatten the curve. We already know important distinctions, like social distance vs. distance between people, epidemic vs. pandemic, respirator vs. ventilator and quarantine vs. self-isolation. This list of terms could go on, moreover, is constantly updated.

Thanks to the joint efforts of world-class specialists such as doctors, health workers, policy advisers, national experts, officials, journalists and, not eventually terminologists, translators and interpreters, a whole world continues to be up to date with the latest data and evolution of pandemic situation around the world.

Also, recently, the terminologists and specialists responsible for translations within the EU institutions, have doubled their efforts to enrich the inter-institutional database of the European Union – Inter-Active Terminology for Europe – IATE with concepts related to COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2. The platform can be useful both for specialists in the field and for simple users who want to get acquainted with the new terms already applied in everyday life. Therefore, EU terminologists are constantly updating the database, believing that IATE users will find useful this compilation of medical terms.

It is essential to have access to official, truthful and understandable information. In these uncertain and difficult times, translators and interpreters are the ones who directly contribute to the permanent exchange of information between world health organizations and population and ensure the correctness and coherence of medical texts, translated into many languages.

The linguistic competence of translation specialists and their working experience with medical terminology is vital for the qualitative and fair translation of specialized texts and press releases with reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The challenges – confrontation or self-improvement?

As a result of the crisis and global economic instability, the translation market will feel the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is more than a health crisis. We can assume that we are living through one of the great global challenges of the 21st century.

The translator’s activity is closely linked to other economic activities, which, being vulnerable to the pandemic, are going through a period of obvious stagnation. Domestic demand for some products appears to have decreased, introducing the quarantine regime, but has not been completely diminished. Most economic sectors switched to remote work (English – telework; French – télétravail; Russian – работа « на удаленке »), thus continuing their daily activity.

As there is great competition in the internal and external translation market, it is important to provide high quality services within the deadline. Specialists in translation must show more than ever their professionalism and a perfect mastering of working languages, so that their work does not suffer great losses, caused by the lately uncertainty.

If, however, the crisis is being felt among translators/interpreters, then it is the perfect moment to invest free time in personal and professional development. It would be nice to meditate on the things you always postpone due to lack of time. Review your business; identify the hidden benefits of this hard time for you and your business.

The global economic impact of the pandemic is to be seen, and translators and interpreters only have to adapt to the new working conditions and continue to perform their job with great dedication and professionalism, hoping for significant improvements for all mankind.

Zasadnii Maria, translator


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