News and Resources - CarerHelp

Translating health resources for Australia’s diverse population

Written by Sonia Sanchez Moreno

  • 7 July 2022
  • Author: CarerHelp
  • Number of views: 287
Translating health resources for Australia’s diverse population

Why is there a need for translated health information in Australia?

We are yet to see all the results of the 2021 census; however, we do have some preliminary data. In 2021, 29.1% of Australia’s population were born overseas. This is a total of 7.5 million migrants. Having access to translated health information means addressing those Australians who speak a language other than English at home. More health-informed Australians directly translates to better health prevention outcomes and a happier and healthier population.

What languages are the most frequently requested?

The top languages that we translate are Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek, Italian, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Spanish and Filipino.

What are the biggest challenges in getting high quality translations and how do you overcome these challenges?

Every project is unique, and we are always learning and evolving. The key is to stay dynamic and think outside of the box. But if we were to pinpoint the most recurring challenge that we face, it would be getting the English text right. So often we come across English resources that are not optimised for translation. This might be because:

  • the language is not simple enough (think plain language!)
  • the content hasn’t been specifically adapted to the community groups we are translating for, or
  • it’s not culturally appropriate.

Sometimes organisations don’t have the flexibility, because of budget, time, or approval process to optimise the text prior to translation, and this can reflect poorly in translation outcomes. In this instance, being able to deliver high quality translations requires us to provide a lot of guidance to our translators and tightly manage the community checking process.

Ensuring we identify issues early on can also be a challenge. Our objective with the early stages of the community translation process is to flag all the potential issues that might happen and address them before we translate. For example, we know that end of life is a culturally sensitive topic, so we’d always try to culturally adapt the English text for each community group before we translate. That way we make sure that the translations will be culturally appropriate.

What was important to consider when translating the CarerHelp information - particularly with the topic around end of life?

We knew it was important to consider that end of life is a very culturally sensitive topic. Being able to provide respectful translations was our focus. Not only respectful to each cultural group, but also to the individuals within those groups. A lot of extra work went into the briefing process to make sure all our translators and community checkers understood that.

What are your tips for people who want to get health information translated?

My number one piece of advice is always understand the communities that you are translating for. But what does that look like? It means doing the legwork before you start the translation process; how does each community group like to receive information? What information do they actually need? Is the existing resource fit for translation? For example, is the text respectful? Are images culturally diverse? Is the text easy to understand?

Translating health information is not just about translating words. There are so many established beliefs, customs, attitudes and practices that people bring with them from their countries of origin… that you really need to understand these before effective translating can start. 

About Sylaba Translations

Sylaba Translations is a Melbourne-based translation company that provides culturally appropriate translation services across Australia.

We don’t subscribe to a direct word-for-word style of translation. Our highly experienced project managers and NAATI-certified translators focus first and foremost on analysing the nuances of different cultures, through a community consultation process, before translating health information. This process makes sure we truly understand how your target audiences would perceive and interpret a range of sensitive concepts within your communication materials.

Read more about our approach at sylaba.com.au/community-translations-in-melbourne


Author: Sonia Sanchez Moreno, director and founder of Sylaba Translations