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During this unprecedented global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light, like never before, on how we are all connected. At the time of writing, half of the world is in lockdown while certain countries are taking timid steps toward reopening. Ironically, the affliction that is bringing us together is also forcing us to keep our distance from one another. Solidarity is no longer expressed as a group, but rather through isolation. In this context, communication is critical: for the battle to be won, relevant information has to quickly reach millions of people living in isolation, so that they can comply with the most recent health and hygiene measures. In other words, we are relying on up-to-date, factual information to help us eventually contain the pandemic. And that work—which is truly a race against the clock—must be done in all languages and on all fronts.

A general call to arms

Under normal circumstances, our society already produces masses of documents. In this new reality, we’re witnessing an explosion of news, press releases, policies, directives, product and service offers, and restrictions. Enormous amounts of written material are being generated.

Spring had not yet sprung before the pandemic pulled the rug out from under us. The coronavirus went from being headline news to monopolizing the entire mediascape in just a few days. In the blink of an eye, our inboxes saw an onslaught of COVID-19-related emails: ongoing memos from employers about measures being taken, meeting postponements, and trip, course and outing cancellations. Our favourite stores closed. For over two months, society has been at a standstill. Your world has gotten smaller, and who knows for how much longer.

Far from the front lines, language professionals are in a relay race of receiving, reworking, tightening or translating documents containing critical information, often at remarkable speeds.

An essential service

Access to information has always been important; now it is vital. Translation services play an essential role in effective communication, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased translation needs tenfold. Companies have to keep clients, employees, suppliers and business partners informed of the measures they have put in place, as well as their guidelines for remote work and hygiene etiquette, new schedules and delivery procedures. This crucial information is disseminated via email, social media or the company’s website.

At Idem, millions of words cross our screens. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, each government press briefing triggers a new wave of requests for language professionals. As a team, we have to work hand-in-hand to be ready to act practically day and night to meet this burgeoning demand.

The information has to circulate simultaneously in both official languages, making translation an essential service. This is especially the case when the documents come from organizations that also provide essential services to a vulnerable population.

Our experienced internal staff are fully engaged, and can rely on the invaluable support of a large pool of external collaborators. Urgent projects follow one after the other, and quality can never be compromised. For that, language professionals have to be on the ball and mentally prepared to find exactly the right words regardless of the tight deadlines.