By Jess O’Dwyer, below, General Manager for Europe, Pocketalk
As the UK strives to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse population, language translation is not only a technological advancement but also a catalyst for productivity and inclusion across business.
From the boardrooms of businesses to the corridors of healthcare services and classrooms in schools, the impact of language translation is reverberating across private and public sectors, fostering a more inclusive and interconnected UK.
Looking ahead to 2024, the power of language translation in various sectors will become even greater than it is today, particularly in the context of workforce productivity, diversity and inclusion, healthcare, education, and childcare.
Overcoming language barriers
In an increasingly diverse country, the UK is on the cusp of a linguistic revolution and leveraging language translation will strengthen the productivity of businesses, helping the next generation and overcoming talent shortages.
This matters so much as population projections based on data from ONS predict that over the next 25 years almost 75% of the UK’s population growth will come from net international migration.
Typically immigrants will speak English as an additional language (EAL), so this population growth will come at the cost of an increasing need for private and public sector organisations to overcome language barriers to serve communities across the country.
According to ONS, about one in 10 people in the UK do not speak English as their first language, and the need will be greatest in major urban areas like Birmingham and London, where more than 20% of the population speak EAL.
According to the UK Census 2021, over one million people could either not speak English well or not speak English at all. While these numbers are constantly changing, it shows the need for translation services in the workplace, as many of these people will be currently engaged in the UK’s workforce.
Furthermore, there have been significant recent changes to the UK visa programs such as the expected increase in the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50 per cent from £26,200 to £38,700. The government will also end the 20 per cent going-rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List.
These changes will impact the recruitment of international talent as UK companies still need to contend with skills shortages in many sectors including engineering, IT and construction.
This means that as well as recruiting more UK workers, companies in these sectors will need to rethink their approaches to recruiting and onboarding overseas workers to ensure that they have effective translation solutions in place from day one. Given the lower number of overseas workers available, translation solutions will need to be spot on from the start of contracts to foster effective communication within diverse teams, which will maximise productivity and enhance workplace harmony.
The NHS must fulfil its equality, diversity, and inclusion improvement plan. Language translation will be integral in achieving that, ensuring that overseas workers are treated fairly and healthcare services are accessible and culturally sensitive to an increasingly diverse population.
In particular, the NHS plan states that the NHS must ‘Implement a comprehensive induction, onboarding and development programme for internationally-recruited staff.’. It also acknowledges that the NHS has benefitted from internationally recruited healthcare professionals since its inception in 1948. It goes on to state that NHS organisations must create comprehensive onboarding programmes for international recruits, and give them access to the same development opportunities as the wider workforce.
To achieve this, NHS organisations will need to provide effective language support to help any overseas workers who struggle with complex medical or technical language. They will also need to help these workers ensure that their English language skills are good enough to progress to senior roles by providing translation services when needed, to aid their learning.
With school, college and university budgets facing pressure, educational institutions are turning to technology for cost-effective solutions. Considerations for the year ahead include streamlining communication processes within schools, facilitating efficient collaboration among staff, students, and parents. Thus there is a clear need for translation tools but many are slow to implement, unsecure or costly.
Schools could engage with interpreters, but this isn’t always readily available if the child speaks a minority language, and it’s these children who are the most impacted by a communication disconnect.
In person translators are very effective but expensive, which means they are increasingly impractical given growing budget pressures in 2024. Language lines can be more affordable, but can be challenging in the noisy classroom environment and confusing to children.
Schools can use free online translation tools, however many are not GDPR compliant or accurate as they don’t consider regional accents and slang. They also don’t cover underrepresented languages and require access to a smart device in the classroom. GDPR compliant digital translation devices like Pocketalk offer instant translation of multiple languages with greater accuracy. Using Wi-Fi or mobile data these devices offer audio and text translations in real time.
As additional childcare provisions come into force in 2024 and 2025, the demand for effective communication between nursery staff and families is set to rise. For instance, from September 2024, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of 9 months to 3-year-olds, to help parents gain more hours of work each week.
This means that private childcare businesses who provide support to young children who speak English EAL will need to increase the amount of language translation support they offer to cater for these children and their parents.
This includes communicating with parents in written communication such as newsletters, notices, and emails, as well as verbal communication during meetings or informal discussions about a child’s progress.
By incorporating translation services in these and other ways, private childcare providers can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for children and families from diverse linguistic backgrounds.
The choice of translation services may depend on factors such as the diversity of the community served, the frequency of communication, and the resources available to the childcare provider.
Whatever the options used, there will clearly be a greater need for this in 2024 to create an inclusive and supportive environment where all parents can engage in their child’s education and well-being.
Ultimately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to language translation, revolutionising how SMEs and public sector organisations overcome language barriers in the fields mentioned above can massively boost productivity and inclusion.