Handbook of easy languages in Europe – an interview with Camilla Lindholm and Ulla Vanhatalo on Inclusion Europe radio

An interview with Camilla and Ula, professors and researchers, who wrote a book about easy languages in Europe.  

Handbook of easy languages in Europe – an interview with Camilla Lindholm and Ulla Vanhatalo on Inclusion Europe radio

Camilla Lindholm and Ulla Vanhatalo are professors and researchers at the University of Tampere and the University of Helsinki, respectively, and they wrote a book about easy languages in Europe.  

Listen to the episode here:

[00:00:32] Camilla and Ula’s work 

Camilla works at the Tampere University of Finland, and she’s been doing research for people with dementia for the last 15 years. Ula is a researcher of linguistics at the University of Helsinki and her specialty is lexical semantics.  

[00:04:41] The effect of the book on them 

They mentioned that the biggest lesson was that so many things are happening in Europe. People are working on so many projects and there are so many institutions that have those kinds of activities. So, many people work on easy language activities and so many different initiatives in different European countries. 

[00:08:21] Easy to read, easy to understand, and easy spoken language 

Written and spoken language work differently, they have different guidelines and how these apply in practice.  

“For example, in Finland, we think that people with immigration backgrounds need the easy language because we have such a difficult language that it takes years and years to master it.” 

[00:16:40] Examples of countries concerning easy-to-understand languages 

For instance, Sweden was the first country that started doing easy language work in the 1960s, and in general Nordic and Scandinavian countries were highlighted.  

“But of course, I want also to say that no country is yet perfect. So, I think that the best situation would be to pick up some parts, some practices from each country, and then make a perfect society based on different things”. 

[00:20:25] What they learnt from the book and the future of easy to read 

The world is getting more and more complex every day and in this complex world, we need easy language. More precisely, Inclusion Europe defines its vision as follows: “We want a Europe where people with intellectual disabilities enjoy equal rights and fully participate in all aspects of life”. Ula thinks this fully matches with what the future of easy language should be. 

“To have a good enough easy language and good enough accessible communication, we need research to create the best possible easy language”. 

[00:27:10] Involving persons with disabilities 

The idea was for the book to be written by mostly academic researchers for other people from the target audience in the writing process.  

 [00:33:47] Accessible information during emergencies 

Based on the situation in Ukraine, there’s a need of providing easy to understand information about the situation. We can see that the media are struggling to provide accessible content.  In addition, we have been living in a pandemic for the last two years and this situation has taught us about the importance of providing accessible information on urgent matters to make it possible for the citizens to make informed healthcare decisions. 

“Governments must comprehend how important it is for everybody to understand what is going on in a crisis”. 

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