SOAS University of London

UK information on Covid-19 fails to reach London’s linguistically diverse communities

24 May 2021

The majority of people within linguistically diverse communities in London obtain information about Covid-19 from outside of the UK, according to early findings from a SOAS University of London led research project

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project examining Covid-19 risks among London’s migrant communities aims to understand why people differ in their understanding and interpretation of Covid-19, and whether these differences are related to the language/s people speak, read, and write other than English.

The online survey, conducted between mid-February and early May amongst language communities in London, showed that more than 70% of participants obtained Covid-19 information from outside of the UK, and nearly 80% responded that this information was helpful.

While 78% of respondents said that they would get the vaccine, the remaining 22% who said either “no” or “not sure” gave either worry about the vaccine or lack of information about the vaccine as the main reasons. Tangible information translated by language and culture experts for the UK’s diverse communities could be key in helping to increase vaccine take up.

Principal Investigator Dr Nana Sato-Rossberg said: “Our research shows that it is important for the groups we surveyed to get as much Covid-19 information as possible. When asked whether they got community support to prevent Covid, more than 60% of participants answered that they were not sure. To the question whether participants were willing to get vaccinated, more than 20% of participants responded that they were unsure about vaccine safety. Overall, we see that the survey participants were seeking more reliable information on Covid-19 and vaccinations. Building trust and conveying reliable information seem to be the key.”

The languages spoken by the 688 participants surveyed included Arabic, Bengali, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Somali, Sylheti, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Yoruba and Yiddish.

Cultural translation and interpreting of Covid-19 risks among London’s migrant communities is led by Dr Nana Sato-Rossberg (Principal Investigator) Head of School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, and the three Co-investigators Dr Yan Jiang, Professor Lutz Marten, and Professor Edward Simpson. The project team consists of 14 SOAS languages and cultures experts and anthropologists.