Responding to COVID-19 in a multilingual way 

Gladys Godinez contributed to this blog.

We have access to daily reports from public health officials about best practices and current health directives; however, attempting to fully comprehend the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic is difficult for everyone.

COVID-19 is close to home. We are surrounded by a deadly virus that has shut down businesses, schools, churches, and more.

Some of our neighbors are facing a different reality.

Whether at home or where they work, these community members are not receiving the vital information necessary in their own language to adequately protect themselves against the coronavirus.

For example, Nebraska residents speak 87 languages, according to Communicaid Language Solutions. The English language is first and Spanish is second. Many non-native speakers work in meatpacking plants, which have become COVID-19 hotspots.

Workers in these facilities have not received information in their native languages, which has caused confusion and delayed critical messages. The spread of COVID-19 in these communities is happening because facility owners and managers have responded insufficiently to this public health crisis.

“Our friends and neighbors are being asked to risk their health, safety, and lives without vital protections on the job, which, in turn, is endangering our food supply and our entire communities,” said Gladys Godinez, community organizer for the Center for Rural Affairs. “In addition, people working in meat and poultry plants are not receiving the communication they need from these companies, and they are getting sicker and sicker as a result.”

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we value the involvement of community members and their actions to help neighbors understand what is happening. As we continue to respond to the international coronavirus crisis, we see the need for community response in various languages throughout Nebraska and other states.

“Communication is key,” said Gladys. “Knowing how and when to approach the public health department, understanding school announcements and opportunities, as well as having access to governmental information from elected officials are all essential. We’re glad to see our school systems, public health departments, and elected officials trying to communicate in various languages—recognizing the importance of providing vital information to all those they serve.”

We are witnessing individuals take the lead in translating and interpreting information for those who may not be getting it via traditional outlets. School board members are sharing community information, nonprofit organizations are taking the lead in developing language-accessible services, and leaders are stepping up and advocating for language accessibility.

“Going above and beyond is not easy—it takes passion, understanding, and, to some extent, bravery,” said Gladys. “Passion to ensure all people are aware of the necessary vital information. Understanding that we are one of many, and addressing gaps that need to be filled. Finally, bravery, because some of these unsung heroes continue to advocate for language accessibility throughout the state, and, at times, are the solution to this need.”

As proper pandemic response continues to dictate many of our actions, we want to commend those who are trying to involve all community members in their response and continue upholding the strength and resiliency rural Americans have to adapt to a crisis—whether a financial crisis, a historic weather event, or a global pandemic.

We ask if your community is multilingual, consider reaching out for resources to communicate with all of your residents.

Resources that we have gathered

Multilingual COVID-19 resources from Nebraska Public Health Departments

Multilingual COVID-19 state resources

  • Lutheran Family Services - multilingual resources and services for non-English speakers (Kurdish, Zomi, Arabic, Pashto, Karenni, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kiswahili, Karen, Burmese, Arabic-Sudanese, Spanish, Nuer, Nepali) - 833.903.2376.

National resources per language

Spanish

Mayan Indigenous Languages

Somali

Various languages

International resources per language

Various Languages (Arabic, Russian, French, Chinese, Spanish)

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Mayan Indigenous languages (Q’anjob’al, Poqomam, Sipakapense, Mopan, Uspanteka, Akateko, Q’eqchi, Ch’orti, Mam, Tz’utujil, Itza, Ixil, Chuj, Jakalteka, Sakapulteka, Kaqchikel, Tektieka, Achi, Awakateko, K’iche’, Chalchiteka) - TV Maya

Mental health resources

Spanish

Interpreter and translation resources

Website development tools

Educational resources for families

Small business resources

Nebraska resources

Nationwide Resources

Entities that assist Spanish speaking populations

In Nebraska

Entities that assist other non-English speaking populations

In Nebraska

COVID-19 multilingual resources

Various Languages - located in Nebraska

Media resources

Nebraska - statewide

Nebraska - regional