COVID-19, Parkinson’s and crossing the language barrier

11th of April 2020

Recently, professor dr. Bastiaan Bloem and dr. Rick Helmich published an article about the hidden sorrows for people with Parkinson’s in times of COVID-19.

I found the article very illustrative of the dilemma people with Parkinson’s find themselves in – and not only in times of corona – so I wanted to highlight it in a visual expression and thus make the information accessible to another public. If you click on the poster below, it will open as a PDF in a separate window.

The benefits of an afternoon at the drawing table are enormous. Apart from enjoying the connections my brain makes while drawing itself, the result also allows me to explain to my friends what makes Parkinson’s so damn difficult at times.

Crossing the language barrier

What I didn’t see coming was the question by the EPDA to make Spanish and Portuguese translations of the poster. The English text on the poster really doesn’t seem to be that complicated and still people prefer to read it in their mother tongue! This fact makes me aware of the privileged position native English speakers find themselves in. I feel that people who speak English expect that people with a different mother tongue will come over to their language territory. But will they? Or how easily?

When I analyse the so called altmetrics of the article by Bas Bloem and Rick Helmich, I get the following picture:


The outreach stays mostly limited to native English speaking countries.

I wanted to continue the experiment by making translations into Chinese, Japanese, Polish, and French (because colleagues of my Tommi know these languages) and then tweet about it. But the Chinese, Japanese, Polish and French public are not yet lured into the posters I made for them. And so the tweets I sent about these translations only count as extra Dutch tweets. I also find it quite logical that the Chinese, Japanese, Polish and French public do not bite. Probably and logically, it’s not only about what you tweet and in what language but also who tweets it and in what countries their followers live (their twitter/social media bubble).

So, this experiment of n = 1 doesn’t tell us all too much. For that, you need data that transcends the individual (e.g. Klar, 2020).

Still, for me, on #WorldParkinsonsDay2020 it does seem a good question to be asking ourselves:

Could we unleash innovation and the exchange of good practices by lowering the language barriers which divide us who share the same disease label?
Do you think that crossing the language barrier could help end Parkinson’s in some way?
Do you have a tip to lower this barrier?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

In the meantime, I will be on the lookout for a PwP on each of the 7 continents. I’m really curious to hear how they experience Parkinson’s.



Helmich, R. C., Bloem, B. R. (2020). The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Parkinson’s Disease: Hidden Sorrows and Emerging Opportunities. vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 351-354. (Open access).

Klar, S., Krupnikov. Y., Ryan, J.B., Searles, K., Shmargad, Y. (2020). Using social media to promote academic research: Identifying the benefits of twitter for sharing academic work. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0229446. (Open access en open data)

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