Here at STAR UK, and more specifically, at Melly Manor, we’re adjusting to a new normal living the #lockdownlife. Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic is occupying all of our thoughts so I thought I would channel this into something kind of language related for the latest blog post.

It almost goes without saying, but it’s definitely worth repeating:

Key workers are the true heroes right now

NHS workers are risking their health to look after us. Supermarket staff are keeping our cupboards full. Numerous other industries are keeping skeleton staff so that some semblance of normal service can remain in place for those in need.

Yet today, I wanted to draw your attention to some of those who you may not have seen. Those in the languages industry who are doing their part during the COVID-19 crisis.

Interpreters and subtitlers

we wouldn’t usually group these together in this way. I hope you’ll understand why I’ve put them in the same point.

You shouldn’t notice a good interpreter. When a global leader addresses a conference, the focus is on their presence at the lectern. It is not on the disembodied voice that is speaking their words in your language.

However, interpreters are vital in ensuring that these messages are still available in a language that you understand.

In the current situation however, social distancing and restrictions on press conferences/group gatherings mean that interpreters might not be used quite as frequently as previously.

Instead, subtitles are an alternative.

Again, not much thought is given to the actual subtitler when you watch foreign language films. Yet, currently, their work is very important.

A friend has been sharing links to Angela Merkel’s regular addresses to Germany on her Facebook page. It doesn’t matter that you might not speak German as english subtitles have been added.

If you look at the comments on these videos, so many of them are from expats expressing gratitude for these subtitles. The current pandemic is scary enough when you are in your native land. Yet, in a new country with limited or no knowledge of its language, it must be terrifying.


I could name many scenarios where a translator’s work is required during a pandemic, but I’ll limit myself to three.

  1. Translation of instruction manuals/safety equipment. New coronavirus tests, new ventilators, new PPE. New products are entering the marketing every day and there is quite literally a global demand for these. At the time of writing 202 countries were affected by the COVID-19 virus. When lives are at stake, it is important that all instructions are accurately translated into local languages.
  2. Translation of health and safety advice. Immediately, Translators Without Borders springs to mind here. It is vital that the advice to self-isolate with certain symptoms, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face are all available in local languages. When you consider local dialects in countries like India and spread across the continent of Africa, you can see that a mammoth localisation effort is required to ensure that the correct advice is available to all.
  3. Translation of the BBC live feed. The BBC is making its live reporting on the pandemic available in UK minority languages such as Urdu. Again, it’s important that this information is available to all, regardless of their language skills.

So there you have it. The languages industry is playing a small, yet important role in the fight against Coronavirus.

Next week, I’ll be back with more jargon busting and explanations for the confused translation buyer. For now though, I’ll sign off with the following: Stay home, stay safe.

It’s a strange time with the global panic about the COVID-19 virus. Here in the UK, we’re approaching total lockdown and we already have staff in the vulnerable groups who have been asked to isolate for the next 12 weeks.

However, we’re pleased to say that we are currently able to keep a normal level of service during the coronavirus crisis. We have worked hard to put measures in place to allow all our teams to work from home and our customers should notice little difference to the service they receive.

Obviously it is a rapidly changing situation and we will update this message to reflect any alterations in our processes. Please feel free to contact us with any translation enquiries at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

This page will be updated with any updates as the situation changes.

Last update: Friday 20th March 2020.

Translators Without Borders is a non-profit organisation that was set up to provide translation services for humanitarian non-profits. It aims to close the language gaps that hinder humanitarian effort by connecting humanitarian organisations with a volunteer community of professional translators.

STAR UK is proud to have been a bronze sponsor of TWB since 2013.