What is a simpler explanation

Easy and simple language

Gudrun Kellermann

To person

M.A .; Research assistant at the Institute for Empirical Sociology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. [email protected]

Easy language is becoming more and more popular in Germany. More and more websites, brochures and flyers are designed in simple language. Easy Language, Simple Language - is it the same? Often both terms are used synonymously. Since easy language is not a protected term, different rules are used. Easy language in the sense of the UN Disability Rights Convention (UN-BRK) aims to enable people with reading difficulties to participate in society and politics. It follows certain rules, which were first developed with the significant cooperation of the Mensch Verein, and is characterized, among other things, by short main clauses, extensive avoidance of subordinate clauses, the use of known words, while difficult words are explained. The typeface should be clear, without frills (serifs) and sufficiently large. A paragraph is made after every punctuation mark and after meaningful paragraphs. The visual appearance of images and text must be clear. Colors should be used sparingly. Simple illustrations are better than photos that show too much detail. [1]


Easy language / simple language

Easy language

Sentence ellipses are allowed, i.e. incomplete sentences like "Bad" instead of "That's bad". Longer compound name words are separated with a hyphen, for example "Heim-Advisory Board" instead of "Heimbeirat". In addition, the colon is used specifically as an indicating signal:
"Use active words.
Bad: The home advisory board will be elected tomorrow.
Good: Tomorrow we will elect the home advisory board. "

Simple language

Simple language is more complex. More difficult terms are also used:
"States are responsible for ensuring that disabled people are involved in the development of all laws that deal with the rights and obligations of disabled people."

Excerpts from: humans first (note 1); B. I. Tronbacke (note 9).

In contrast to the easy language, there is no set of rules for the simple language. It is characterized by a more complex style of speech. The sentences are longer, subordinate clauses are permitted and all terms used in everyday life are assumed to be known. Foreign words should also be avoided here if possible, otherwise they must be explained. Punctuation marks and paragraphs do not necessarily have to be followed by a paragraph, as long as the text remains clear. The visual appearance of text and images is also less strictly regulated. Texts in simple language are helpful for many people, for example for people with reading and spelling difficulties, [2] people with brain injuries, elderly and hearing impaired people with poor spoken language skills, people with little knowledge of German, learners of a foreign language or tourists. Even people who do not belong to the target groups mentioned can benefit from simple or easy language, as one user of the easy language emphasizes: "At an event in Berlin, a member of the Bundestag stated that he regularly has to read and work through many texts and drafts at very short notice Once he was so pressed for time that he was glad that the text was also available in easy language. "[3]

Easy language has its origins in the American organization People First, which was founded in 1974 and developed the idea of ​​Easy Read in 1996. This idea was also taken up in Germany: [4] In 1997 a first official network of people with learning difficulties was established in Germany, and in 2001 the association Mensch first was founded, which published two dictionaries in easy language. In 2006 the network for easy language was created in Germany. [5] In 1998 the European Association of ILSMH (International League of Societies for Persons with Mental Handicap) developed and published European guidelines for the creation of easily readable information for the first time. [6] From this, the international organization Inclusion Europe created a comprehensive set of rules on easy language in 2009 in cooperation with people from eight countries - Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal, Scotland. [7] It is largely written in very simple language with a clear and appealing look and also deals with the design of print and audio media, websites and videos. Inclusion Europe has developed a seal of approval for easy language, which is now widespread in Germany and identifies texts that have been written in easy language and checked by people with learning difficulties.

In addition to legislative institutions, the driving force behind plain language was primarily associations from the library and publishing sectors. [8] In 1992 the Readers' Charter was adopted, which anchors the right to read and emphasizes its importance for participation in society. [9] In 1999 IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) issued guidelines for easy-reader material, i.e. guidelines for easy-to-read material. [10] The concept comprises two components: the linguistic modification of a text so that it is easier to read, but without changing the content, and the simplification of texts both in terms of language and content. The main target groups in the guidelines are people with a disability, such as a learning disability, and people with limited reading and language skills.

Easy language in Europe

Sweden is leading the way in easy-to-read. The committee of the Swedish National Agency for Education first took up the idea in 1968. In 1984 the first plain language newspaper was published. The eight-page newspaper "8 Sidor" appears weekly. Since 1991 Sweden has had its own publishing house for publications in plain language. Service points of the Easy-to-Read Commission create and translate texts into plain language on behalf of authorities, organizations, associations and companies. Since 1992, around 3,500 people have been active as so-called reading officers who support people with reading difficulties. [11] The target groups include people with learning difficulties, hearing impairments, functional illiteracy, dyslexia, aphasia, autism, dementia, brain injuries, people with a migration background, the elderly and children. Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Estonia and the Netherlands also have their own newspapers in plain language on a regular basis. [12]

In Germany there is no weekly newspaper with news in easy or simple language as printed paper, but the website nachrichtenleicht.de, which has existed since 2011 and has published weekly online news since 2013. In addition, the newspaper "Klar & Deutlich" has been published since 2009. In addition to these newspapers, which focus on conveying the latest news, there are a number of other newspapers and magazines in easy or simple language for various target groups and on various topics, such as the ABC newspaper for people with functional illiteracy, the newspaper " WeiberZEIT "for women with learning difficulties or the magazine" Ohrenkuss "of the federal association for life support.

The nachrichtenleicht.de website was developed in 2010 and 2011 by students at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences. It presents news from around the world in simple language once a week. Initially, the news appeared weekly for four weeks on a trial basis. In 2013 the Cologne University of Applied Sciences resumed the project, this time in cooperation with Deutschlandfunk. Since then, new news on culture, sports and other topics has appeared every Saturday. A photo can be seen for each message and all messages can also be heard as an audio version. Also, explanations of words are sometimes given below the messages. The texts are written in simple language, [13] and not in easy language according to the rules of the network easy language. Nevertheless, the response from the Mensch association was initially very positive. [14] At the same time, however, criticism was expressed from other sources, namely by people who obviously did not belong to the target groups of the website. The criticism was not directed against the website itself, but against the concept of easy language. In the following I take up some of the criticisms.

In January 2013, Deutschlandfunk drew attention to the website nachrichtenleicht.de on Facebook, a social internet platform. This created a controversial discussion. An initial reaction was: "Deutschlandfunk for idiots?" Several people indignantly disagreed with the comment that after all, easy language is a good thing. The answer from Deutschlandfunk received a lot of approval: "Don't you find that a little hard? Don't you perhaps also know someone with intellectual disabilities who wants to participate in life, who is also allowed to vote? What speaks against offering these people information?" In the course of the discussion it became apparent that the participant directed his criticism less against the target group addressed. Rather, he criticized the loss of content due to cuts. This would make news manipulative. This accusation is to be agreed with, but at the same time countered by the fact that news is always manipulative: Everything that reaches us via newspapers, radio, and television never corresponds to the perfect truth. In addition, everyone has a right to information about what is going on in the world. At the same time, it is the duty of education to teach media criticism as early as possible.

Shortening the content of translations from everyday language into easy language and thus falsifications is a frequent accusation. This is why Inclusion Europe's rules and regulations recommend dividing a long document into several short documents, each with their own subtopic, when translating into easy language. It is also recommended to provide an additional offer such as audiovisual media, such as audio books, videos, CD-ROMs or DVDs. The problem of changing the content through linguistic simplifications still remains here. However, this also applies to translations from foreign languages, i.e. every translation from one language into another is accompanied by a certain loss of content. News in the mass media goes through numerous international translation processes, guests from different countries come together in talk shows, films are dubbed and books are published in different languages. The quality of the translation always depends on the translating people, who decide which content is conveyed and which is left out. The addressees must be aware of the changes in content due to translations and should learn to critically question translated content at school age.

Another point of criticism is that easy language is reminiscent of children's language. One Facebook user said: "An interesting approach that has quite a bit of positivity in it. Success remains to be seen, but I think there is a closeness to children's news such as 'Logo', which is ultimately about shorter sentences and the simplified representation of complex content. " That depends largely on how easy language is presented in audiovisual media. Internet sites for children are more colorful and flashy, the fonts and font sizes are constantly changing, and the language for reading-competent children is more complex than easy language. The sentences strictly follow the rules of German grammar, while in the easy language, for example, hyphens are used in compound name words. The language is mostly emotional and sometimes has an "educational sound". Children are used, while adult users of easy language are always addressed as "you". In addition, the selection of the image material also plays a major role. In plain language, the image material supports the text content: It must be simple and clear and avoid decorative details. Image material for children, on the other hand, primarily aims to arouse interest in a text and to loosen it up visually.

Importance of easy language in the present

The explanations make it clear that the term easy language is not protected and binding rules are necessary. One problem is that there is no clear differentiation between easy language and simple language. The human rights report of the CRPD Alliance in March 2013, which has been critical of the implementation of the CRPD since 2009, calls for a clear definition: "Although the state report (on the UN Disability Rights Convention, note GK) recognizes the importance of access for people with disabilities Communication emphasizes that only limited measures are being taken to meet this requirement. For example, there has not yet been a definition of 'easy language' and standards have not been introduced. There is no legal obligation to use 'easy language' "[15] - although there are political demands to establish both forms of language as separate options for everyday language. [16]

More and more people, organizations and universities are interested in the topic of easy language. On the one hand, this is a positive development; on the other hand, there is a risk that the term “easy language” will be watered down or that, as a result of the interrogation, especially by linguistics and related subjects, the demands of people who have been affected will not be heard. In conclusion, this means that documents in easy language must always be checked by people with learning difficulties, who ideally are also qualified examiners. In the fall of 2011, for example, the pilot course "Easy Language" started, in which people with learning difficulties were trained to become qualified examiners. It is to be hoped that this will result in official jobs. It also makes sense to use a uniform and official seal of approval for easy language. The seals of approval currently used are based on various rules from different organizations.