• Alysa Salzberg

Translators around the world come together to talk about social distancing

From naming the virus, to fighting it, COVID-19 has brought many new vocabulary words into the world, including…"COVID-19". Some of these words are easy to translate, but others are a bit daunting.


Recently, linguists and translators around the world began discussing how to correctly translate “social distancing” into various languages.


Of course, they didn’t actually gather together in the physical world; the discussion itself is an excellent example of social distancing, appropriately enough – it took place mostly on Twitter.


It may seem easy enough to translate two common words, but the concept of social distancing carries a very specific meaning with it, of course. For instance, Arabic translators and speakers debated at one point whether “social distancing” was best expressed as “safe distance”, hesitating because of the implication of different parts of speech.


Interestingly, many participating in the debate mention ways the term has already been translated and used in local media. Although the official terminology may evolve, it’s fascinating to see what fast-thinking journalists have already come up with, and why.


Read on to learn more about this and other sometimes surprising debates over this new term that’s now familiar to people around the globe.


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