More Singaporeans create South Asian translation websites for COVID-19

These youths are using their Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam language proficiencies to help more healthcare professionals communicate with affected migrant workers.

Wan Munirah

Published: 28 April 2020, 10:31 PM

Following 24-year-old Sudesna Roy Chowdhury’s Bengali translation website, more Singaporeans are coming forward to ease the communication barriers between migrant workers and healthcare workers.

When A Aarthi and her friends noticed Sudesna’s website, they felt inclined to contribute to the good cause by tapping on their Tamil language proficiencies.

Together with her friends, the 26-year-old civil servant created a Tamil translation website to help more healthcare professionals communicate with affected migrant workers amidst the COVID-19 situation.

Aarthi shared with Youth.SG: “When Sudesna’s website came up, a lot of doctors and other healthcare professionals started giving feedback immediately for her to make changes and add new stuff.

“While that was happening on the Bengali side, it was also happening on the Tamil side. We would share whatever feedback that was given by other doctors who reached out to us with Sudesna too.”

With her five-woman team, Aarthi managed to get her website up and running in just two days.

“We all kind of know each other, which is why it all happened so fast. One person in my team is my cousin, another is my secondary school junior, and another is my junior college friend,” added Aarthi.

The team translated the resources found on Sudesna Roy Chowdhury’s website and added more relevant resources, such as FAQs and mental health content, along the way. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/A AARTHI


Aarthi said: “The Tamil translation website is meant to help both doctors and migrant workers. We’re hoping that the migrant workers will make use of the mental health resources and FAQ section on the website.

It also helped that Aarthi had a keen interest in helping Tamil migrant workers.

“My cousin (Vaishnavi Naidu) and I run a group for female South Asian migrant workers, Women of Shakti, since Feb 2018. Through this group, we conduct English classes every week. So when this opportunity [with Tamil translations] came up, we decided to jump on it because it’s a related cause.”

To support the website’s extensive translation work, Aarthi and her team posted shoutouts on their personal Instagram pages to recruit more Tamil translators. To date, they have managed to recruit 70 translators to assist them.

Their Tamil translations were also shared on TranslateForSG, another website that provides translations for conversational phrases and medical instructions in seven other Asian languages.



Aarthi (bottom right) with her team members (clockwise from bottom left): Niranjana Krishna (24), Vaishnavi Naidu (29) and Shahera Safrin (25). PHOTO CREDIT: A AARTHI


Besides the Tamil language, fellow team member Niranjana Krishna also made use of her South Asian language proficiencies to include more translations and help more people beyond Singapore.

The 24-year-old said: “I adapted the original Bengali site into Malayalam, with translation support from my parents and other volunteers. I also worked on the Hindi site as I am fluent in Hindi, which I learned in school in Singapore.

“I thought that the Malayalam site would be especially useful in the Gulf and Dubai, as there is a large number of Malayalee migrant workers there. So I adapted the site for international visitors, with specific documents for people in the Gulf.”

Moving forward, Aarthi hopes that more youths can come forward and support other initiatives with their mother tongue proficiencies when the need arises, and to stay attuned to issues on the ground.

“I think the unique thing is we’ve learnt our mother tongue for so many years in Singapore and everybody thinks there’s no use for us to learn our mother tongue. But clearly there’s a use [in this case].

“For the Indian community, this is one way you can step up if you have time,” said Aarthi.

Meanwhile, Niya hopes that Singaporean youths will continue to be engaged with migrant rights issues, even after the COVID-19 situation has eased.

“The COVID-19 situation in Singapore really makes us question the structural inequalities in place that Singaporeans have accepted as the norm for so long.

“I hope that Singaporean youths will continue to think critically about what led to the crisis growing exponentially, and volunteer with and support organisations like HOME and TWC2 that do really important advocacy work, as well as smaller community initiatives.”

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