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Lost in translation – communicating healthcare information in other languages

25 June 2021

Making sure translations of healthcare information make sense to linguistically diverse audiences has become more important than ever during Covid-19 outbreaks.


University of Canterbury Global, Cultural and Language Studies lecturer Dr Wei Teng’s work has earned him an MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship.

University of Canterbury Global, Cultural and Language Studies lecturer Dr Wei Teng’s work in this area has earned him an MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship, it was announced this week. The early-career fellowship provides $320,000, which will enable Dr Teng to continue his community translation research project, In the Lay-reader’s Eyes – Reassurance of Translation Quality, over the next two years.

 Dr Teng’s research focuses on the importance of getting vital information to linguistically diverse communities in the context of changing alert levels and public health situations.

 “Community Translation or Interpreting is an emerging field of study that facilitates language access rights and services, which benefits community members’ health and social wellbeing,” Dr Teng says.

 “My latest study revealed rather conflicting opinions on translation quality between translators and lay readers. In particular, the lay readers often did not respond to a translation in the way that the translators expected the translation had been received.

 “The lay audience are the intended receivers of a translation, yet previous research has largely neglected their fundamental role in assessing translation and interpreting quality.”

 Dr Teng, who lectures in the University of Canterbury’s Chinese language programme and the Master of Applied Translation and Interpreting, developed and applied a set of practical and evidence-based assessment criteria for translators/interpreters. The criteria used is consistent with the perspectives of end-users of Community Translation and is potentially applicable to the requirements of an MBIE initiative, Language Assistance Services (LAS) Programme, which aims to establish a New Zealand certification system for interpreters and standards for interpreting services.

 “My aspiration for my research is to promote understanding among diversified languages, including te reo Māori and other languages, preventing misunderstandings among diverse communities in our society and promoting social inclusion of other language groups into New Zealand’s multicultural society.”

 University of Canterbury Mechanical Engineering postdoctoral fellow Dr James Hewett was also awarded a fellowship for research entitled Deep vein thrombosis: getting to the heart of the problem, along with Dr Amba Sepie for her Geography research entitled Strategies for Decolonisation: Indigenous Knowledges and Regenerative Cultural Design.

 The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowships for early career researchers are funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi. The fellowships support up-and-coming researchers to establish careers in their chosen field of research; this is reflected in the name of the fellowship ‘Te whitinga mai o te rā,’ or ‘the rising of the sun’.

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