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When in a pandemic the language barrier becomes an odyssey for migrant minorities who don’t speak Spanish

Madrid / Among the many problems that the coronavirus pandemic has starkly highlighted is the language barrier for thousands of immigrants living in Madrid who do not speak Spanish (Castilian) and for those who go to the doctor these days it can become an odyssey that shows how the language becomes a serious problem of integration.

Associations and administrations have tried to patch up a delicate and deeply rooted situation, which mainly affects relatively minority communities whose vernacular languages ​​rarely appear in the brochures of translation services, such as Bangladeshis with Bengali, Senegalese with Wolof or Filipinos with Tagalog.

Dying for not being able to communicate

The death at his home in Lavapiés by COVID-19, on March 26 and without receiving medical attention, of the Bangladeshi Mohamed Hussein, could be due, according to the complaint to EFE from the spokesperson of the Red Solidaria de Reception, Nines Cejudo, to the inability to communicate by phone with health services.

The event served for this association to organize a team of about thirty volunteers to carry out interpretation and mediation work, in collaboration with Red Interlavapiés and Valiente Bangla (a reference group for the Bangladeshi community, which has 6,623 registered in the capital and 3,005 in the Downtown district).

Cejudo explains that the telephone set up for this purpose has received more than a thousand calls in recent months, from people who need volunteers to translate from Spanish into Bengali, Wolof, Bambara (spoken in Mali) or Dariya (Moroccan dialect of Arabic ), and vice versa.

Solidarity on the move

The president of Valiente Bangla, Elahi Mohammad Fazle, adds that they also help them make a medical appointment, get the medication they need, and sometimes even accompany them in person to carry out diagnostic tests. It adds that they have launched a campaign to demand that the institutions strengthen their interpretation and mediation services.

The Ministry of Health indicates that their language interpretation service, which works by telephone or video call, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in hospitals, mental health services and SUMMA112 emergency services, and that during the health crisis due to covid-19 “has also been available in Primary Care.”

Health sources defend that the device allows “minimizing the cultural barrier”, given that “a high percentage of interpreters are native speakers”, and that among the languages ​​offered are Wolof, Urdu (spoken in Pakistan), Arabic, Bambara and also Bengali, despite the fact that associations have criticized the omission of the latter language.

On the other hand, sources from the City Council have indicated to EFE that the Centro district has had an integration and social mediation service since last September 1, which offers support for translations in Wolof, Bengali, Tagalog, Arabic and Chinese, and that has assisted 68 people, providing 19 text translation services and 22 interpretation services. (November 24, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

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