Even as we sent invitations to potential participants, we struggled to put pen to paper. Should we refer to “non-English language sessions”? Should we call them “Sessions in Languages Other than English”? If we’re asking presenters to attend online sessions in “different languages” does it infer: a session with more than one language? Despite the global ubiquity of English there was no comfortable way to say it. Even for English speakers, sometimes there are just no words.
At IAPB we know that English is not always the most comfortable way for our members and stakeholders to present or participate. Recently, a group of us were talking to Professor Sangchul Yoon from Yonsei University about a paper he’d published around eye care interventions for school-age children in Vietnam. I asked him to email me a link. He replied that there really wasn’t any point because the paper was published in Korean. His evidence was mike-drop, game-changing… it left a group of us with our jaws on the table. Yet we don’t know about it; nor can we. It hasn’t permeated our Anglosphere.
Imagine if this was constantly the reality. For many of our friends and colleagues our reliance on English means that for them, it often is. We have significant numbers of member organisations in countries as diverse as China, Brazil, Mexico and Korea where English is not a first language, but also not the language of everyday business.
Recently, we’ve taken steps to be more linguistically accessible. We work more often in Spanish, given our re-engagement strategy with Latin America; we have IPEC units in Spanish, soon in French and we do our best to ensure that the translated WHO tools are promoted in the official WHO languages. We encourage our members and others to submit stories in their own native languages and have increased the number of newsletters we share in Spanish and French. On China Sight Day, just this month, we supported the launch of a new Chinese Community Eye Health Journal. However, we know that we need to do better, and everyone at IAPB continues to strive to increase our content and events in languages other than English.
Therefore in 2023, to accompany 2030 IN SIGHT LIVE, we are delighted to release a series of pre-recorded online sessions in languages other than English. Each topic links to one of the programmed Live sessions in Singapore. We have chosen Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish for our first foray – with subjects varying from Bringing Scale, Innovation & Digital Transformation to Eye Health (Korean) to Business in Action: How Private Sector Collaboration is Driving Change (French). It’s been quite the undertaking: over 20 IAPB member organisations, working to frame and develop content that is relevant, contextual and – potentially – representing the eye health sector to a whole, new audience. We couldn’t have done it without the tireless support of the Events and Communications teams who have recorded and edited and coordinated with our Moderators… sometimes bridging the linguistic divide!
Thank you to all the participants for the enriching content you’ve given us and for bringing energy, excitement and enthusiasm to this pilot. Special mention to the Moderators, Amanda Huang, Simon Day, Sangchul Yoon, Frank Hida and Luisa Casasluque and to Becki Perryman for her styling and recording of everything.
We hope you are as energised, excited and enthused as our teams. Enjoy.