Covid-19 and minority and lesser-known languages

In a recent post on this blog, Sebastian Drude pointed out that the current coronavirus pandemic is having, and will have, both direct and indirect impacts on indigenous communities in Brazil. A report on SBS television in Australia broadcast on 3rd May also discussed similar issues for Aboriginal communities in Australia, and elsewhere.

In some countries, government and non-government agencies have made information about the virus and the Covid-19 epidemic available in minority languages. For example, the Doctors of the World organisation in the UK has translated information from the National Health Service from English into 49 languages, including Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Czech, Dari, Estonian, Farsi, Filipino, French, German. Greek, Gujarati, Hausa, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Kiswahili, Krio, Kurdish Sorani, Latvian, Lithuanian, Oromo, Malayalam, Nepali, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Sindhi, Slovak, Spanish, Somali, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Yiddish (see our blog post earlier this week by Lily Kahn, Kriszta Eszter Szendrői, and Sonya Yampolskaya from University College London (UCL) about issues with the Hasidic Yiddish translation). Community activist and educator Zubair Torwali worked with the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, to produce a series of information videos in Wahki, Indus Kohistani, Torwali, Pashto, Shina, Palula, Gojri, and Gawri. A compilation of links by Anna Belew of the Endangered Languages Project lists similar translation work by governments, NGOs, and public health organizations into hundreds of languages around the world, including audio and video recordings, as well as text materials. Wikimedia commons also has links to information in 75 languages.

Several groups of linguists and speaker community members are also creating information for lesser-known languages, including minority and endangered languages. For example, the virALLanguages initiative is a volunteer-run project involving the KPAAM-CAM project (University at Buffalo), SOAS World Languages Institute (UK), and the Community for Global Health Equity (University at Buffalo), and its outputs so far can be seen on Youtube and Facebook.

The Society for Endangered and Lesser Known Languages launched an initiative headed by Kavita Rastogi (University of Lucknow) that has been co-ordinating efforts by volunteers to translate Covid-19 information into lesser-known languages throughout India. So far, they have created translations in over 50 languages, including Assamese, Awadhi, Baavari, Bangani, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Biate, Bodo, Byans, Chattisgarhi, Darma, Dimasa, Dogri, Gaddi Pahari , Garhwali, Gujarati, Halbi, Jad, Jaunsari, Kannada, Karbi, Khasi, Kumauni, Kurukh, Lariya, Liangmai, Magahi, Maithali, Malyalam, Marathi, Meitei, Mising, Nalbaria, Nocte, Ollo nocte, Oriya, Pahari , Paite, parvatiya, Pashto, Phongsung, Raji, Rawalti, Rengma, Ruanglat, Sargujiya, Shekhawati, Sylheti, Telugu, Tharu, Tolchha, and Zeme, with more being prepared.

SEL information posters in Pahari, Dimasa, Bodo and Sylheti

Rusaslina Idrus, Department of Gender Studies, University of Malaya, has co-ordinated teams of translators, medical specialists and native speakers to make Covid-19 information posters in a range of Malaysian indigenous languages, including Badjau, Dusun, Jahut, Jakun (Johor), Jakun (Pahang), Mah Meri, Rungus, Semai (Pahang), Semai (Perak), Semelai, Semaq Beri, Suluk, Temiar, Temuan (Selangor), and Temuan (Negeri Sembilan).

Posters in Dusun, Semai, Mahmeri and Temuan.

Also announced today is the COVID-19 Language Matters in the Pacific project led by the Linguistics and Languages team from the School of Language, Arts & Media at the University of the South Pacific. To date, they have compiled information in Bislama, Fijian, Fiji Sign Language, Gagana Samoa, Māori Kuki Airani, Rotuman, and Solomon Islands Pijin, and there is work on five more languages in progress.

If readers know of other local projects creating information for minority communities, especially those whose languages are under threat, let us know via the comments link below.

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3 years ago

Translation Commons and PanLex partnered t create a poster-maker app for the creation of the Covid-19 five basic WHO instructions in any language.
There are already 225 languages mostly indigenous and a few that that are not in Unicode yet:
We welcome new languages, please write to me
We are currently expanding the poster to add audio of each instructions, but we are still in the development phase.
The link to the Languages page is also shared by UNESCO on their IYIL Covid-19 Resources page.

3 years ago

A poster maker site is available here:, supported by volunteers around the world. It has more that 220 contributions so far. Please contact me for additional help to create this in more languages.

Bert Peeters
3 years ago

Not related to minority languages per se, but encompassing them through reliance on a cross-communicative form of English known as Minimal English, associated with the work of Professors Anna Wierzbicka (Australian National University, Canberra) and Cliff Goddard (Griffith University, Brisbane), the following “Essential Messages for the Time of the Coronavirus” may be of interest to some:

3 years ago

There is a collection of information about the virus and Covid-19 in Balinese at (thanks to Alissa Stern for this).

3 years ago

There is also an initiative by Harvard Medical School to translate information into more than 30 languages (thanks to Alissa Stern for this information).

Rosa Vallejos
3 years ago

The Peruvian Ministry of Culture of Peru has developed several resources in indigenous languages. These include posters in 20 languages, radio ads with general recommendations in 32 languages, 3-ad series in 14 languages, and video-ads in 6 languages. These materials are freely available to the public at

Aaron Sonnenschein
3 years ago

And finally, here is a link to an article about the work CIELO is doing.

Aaron Sonnenschein
3 years ago

Here is a link to a series of videos created by CIELO (Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo):

Aaron Sonnenschein
3 years ago

Here is a list created by a student at Cal State LA of audio-visual materials in indigenous languages of the Americas.

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