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The Role and Effectiveness of Multilingual (health) Communication in the time of COVID-19: Reflections from the UK and Qatar

Calendar Thursday, 14 January 2021
Calendar 16:00-18:00

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A webinar consisting of two talks by Dr Khaled Al-Shehari (Qatar University) & Dr Khetam Al Sharou (Imperial College London), run by the Transnational Cultural & Visual Studies research theme under the School-wide Crisis and Culture research theme. The event will be moderated by Dr Dia Borresly (Qatar University).

Talk 1: Provision of COVID-19 information to non-Arabic speakers in Qatar: Policies and practices
Assistant Professor Khaled Al-Shehari

It can be life-threatening if a COVID-19 preventive message does not reach expatriates because they do not speak the host country’s official language. The current talk aims to examine policies adopted by the government of Qatar regarding the communication of essential information to residents who do not speak Arabic, the official language of Qatar, during crises in general and during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular. The talk will highlight Qatar’s policies regarding the use of Arabic as an official language as well as its efforts towards multilingual communication in published laws, regulations and policies. In addition, the study aims to investigate how authorities in Qatar utilised social media to disseminate essential information about COVID-19 to residents who do not speak Arabic. Qualitative and quantitative analysis is applied to a collection of posts and tweets related to COVID-19 that were published on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) by six official bodies in Qatar: Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, Government Communications Office, and Qatar Media Corporation. Posts and tweets are classified according to the different languages they use to express their content. Figures related to share, like, retweet, reply and comment are analysed to assess the outreach of the published information. The talk’s findings highlight the impact of using social media to communicate crisis-related information; it suggests potential remedies that can improve the outreach to people who are vulnerable by virtue of being unable to speak a country’s official language.

Khaled Al-Shehari is Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at Qatar University. He holds an MSc (1998) and a PhD (2001) in Translation Studies from the University of Manchester, UK. He is currently researching innovative methods for teaching translation. His current research projects also include work in the areas of language and communication in crisis settings. He is the co-author The Arabic-English Translator as Photographer by Routledge. He has published articles in The Interpreter and Translator Trainer and edited collections.

Talk 2: Tailored Health Communication in Time of COVID-19 Crisis: The United Kingdom’s Approach between Idea and RealityDr Khetam Al Sharou


With the emergence of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, achieving effective and efficient communication becomes more imperative, especially with the lack of effective treatment and the rapid spread of the virus. This unpredictable situation requires creating and disseminating an accurate and timely message that can help in preventing and controlling the transmission of the virus through raising public awareness and changing health-related behaviour. Communication failure, however, could lead to a wider spread of the virus and a higher death rate. This was apparent at the start of the current pandemic, especially in a country like the UK, where multilingual and multicultural communities coexist. For health messages to be effective, therefore, they need to be tailored to suit the needs of these communities. The latest figures show that infection rate among Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK is higher than those among White British. The figures pertaining to health outcomes are even worse. This talk will focus on the UK’s approach to health interventions that target minority communities and will address issues of reach, effectiveness and appropriateness while assessing tailored COVID-19 campaign materials. It will also provide insights into how such an approach can be improved to ensure a delivery of tailored and effective messages that can reach and impact the target audience.

Dr Khetam Al Sharou is a researcher at the Department of Computing, Imperial College, London. She holds a PhD in Translation Studies (University College London) and an MSc in Translation and Computer Assisted Translation Tools (Heriot-Watt University). She has previously held research and teaching positions at various institutions in the UK (UCL, LSE, Surrey) and Syria (Damascus University, the Higher Institute of Translation and Interpreting). Her research interests include human-machine interaction and their wider applications, didactics in H.E., and intercultural healthcare training. She is particularly interested in finding innovative solutions to enable multilingual communication in various critical settings and improve user experiences. She is currently involved in a number of cross-disciplinary research projects focusing on the linguistic and communication integration of adult refugees and refugee doctors in Europe and the UK as well as on translation services in medical and crisis scenarios.

Moderator Biography
Dia Borresly is Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at Qatar University. She holds an MA (2011) and a PhD (2017) in Translation Studies from Cardiff University, UK. She is interested in translator training, and natural translators. Her current research examines the work of trainee and professional translators in translating cultural specific items in literary works. She is also working on creating a dictionary of Kuwaiti proverbs and their translation into Spanish. She co-authored “Towards a sociolinguistic theorization of solidarity: A case study on Twitter communication in Qatar during the blockade”, and published “Influence of Translator Training on the Perceptions of Translation as well as on the Role of the Translator: A Comparative Study”.

Simultaneous Translation
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact by Thursday 7 January to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.

We apologise that the entire registration page is not available in the medium of Welsh. Unfortunately, the platform we use does not offer this service.

Recording of Event
Please note this event will be recorded.

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