Lost in Translation Report

Many service users who require health services may not communicate effectively in English and may need support in accessing and using health and support services. Quality translation of health related material is one means of assisting this.

HSE staff members are often required to organise translation of information leaflets, forms, and other health related information to support service users in accessing and using services optimally. Examples include information about entitlements, access to andnavigation around services, the nature and location of services, condition-specific information, consent forms etc.

In the past, the translation process has been found to be fragmented and sometimes difficult for both service users and staff. For service users the fragmentation has sometimes meant that translations supplied were inaccurate or inappropriate for their needs. Another consequence of this fragmentation is the duplication of time and resources as different HSE areas produce translations of similar material. When changes are needed to the original materials this can lead to further risks of duplication of material, additional costs and wastage of resources.

The HSE National Social Inclusion Unit has produced a resource that supports staff in this area. The overall aim of this resource is to guide, assist and support staff in pursuing good practice in enabling service users to enjoy access to high quality translated information that has been produced in a cost effective, business focused manner and is appropriate to the needs of a wide range of service users.

The resource comprises the following:

  • Lost in Translation? Good Practice Guidelines for HSE Staff in Planning, Managing and Assuring Quality Translations of Health Related Material This booklet contains practical information and guidance on a number of aspects, including the planning and production of translated material, current standards around translations, the hallmarks of quality translated material, business focused considerations around effecting translations and best practice ways of working with Translators. You can read the booklet here.
  • Case Study: Translation of the Informing Families Website (www.informingfamilies.ie)

The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies Providing Services to People with Intellectual Disabilities undertook a pilot project to translate the Informing Families website into 7 languages, in partnership with HSE Social Inclusion. A description of this case study, which is included in the ‘Lost in Translation’ guide, details the process – and learning – around translating material for parents of children with intellectual disability. The multilingual website is an outcome of the Informing Families Project, which provides training and support to professionals in communicating the news of a child’s diagnosis of disability to the family, and provides early information for parents who have just received their child’s diagnosis. The project was a recipient of the Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards in 2010.

  • Summary sheet

This contains key points for consideration when planning and managing translations of health related material. It enables a quick reference for staff around important messages in the overall translation process. You can read the summary sheet here.

Note: Social Inclusion is also compiling a database of all health related translated material that is currently available. Should any staff member wish to find out if specific translated information is available, relevant links may then be provided. This process is expected to save on unnecessary duplication of material. New material will be added to this database as it is sourced and the database will be continuously updated. However, the database will only be effective if staff producing translated material forward a copy to the Social Inclusion Office.

This forms part of recommendations of the HSE National Intercultural Health Strategy 2007 – 2012 and supplements other resources that include the Emergency Multilingual Aid and the Intercultural Guide.

A limited number of copies have been printed. Copies are available on request from socialinclusion@hse.ie Queries, feedback and copies of material already translated should also be forwarded to this address.