Identifying people's needs

  • Ask users their preferred language and format
  • Get to know language, dialect and literacy needs
  • Prioritise resources for translation by user needs


Up to one million people cannot speak English well or at all[1]
They have a lower proportion of 'good' health than English speakers in the UK[2]


Producing translated materials

  • Start with health literacy friendly materials
  • Work with trusted voices in the community
  • Ensure material is culturally appropriate
  • Think about visual content as well as words
  • Make sure information is accurate
  • Pilot translations with representative users
  • Common terms, like the NHS, might need explaining in translated materials


Translators – the options

Professional translators


  • ✅ Considered the gold standard
  • ✅ Adapt to specific scenarios
  • ✅ Proactive checking
  • ✅ Greater awareness of cultural sensitivities



  • ❌ Greater cost


Informal language support (friends, family, volunteers)


  • ✅ Value should not be underestimated



  • ❌ Places a burden on those providing
  • ❌ Not appropriate in formal healthcare settings


Language technology (computer-aided translation)


  • ✅ Free or low cost option



  • ❌ Less likely to be accurate for specialised contexts
  • ❌ Less likely to make intuitive connections
  • ❌ Many non-European languages are not supported or are less accurate
  • ❌ May be issues with clinical quality assurance


Association of Translation Companies (ATC) membership is the mark of quality language services. View the ATC guide to translation for charities here.





Further resources

  1. PIF member recommendations for translations into Welsh
  2. PIF Health Literacy Matters poster
  3. PIF Co-production Matters poster


Published by the Patient Information Forum Ltd. February 2022. Review date: February 2024.

Translated health information matters image

Translated health information matters


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