Sunday, January 16, 2011

In case of disaster: foreigner version 1/16

消火器は「火を消す道具」 外国人にやさしい災害用語集

A fire extinguisher is a tool to put out fires: Simple disaster vocab for foreigners

「消 火器」は「火を消す道具」、「給水」は「水をもらうこと」――。被災時に外国人に情報を伝えるには、外国語よりも分かりやすい日本語が効果的だと、青森県 弘前市の弘前大学社会言語学研究室が「『やさしい日本語』版災害基礎語彙(ごい)100」を作った。阪神大震災の起きた17日に合わせてホームページで公 表する。

"Fire extinguisher," has become "tool to put out fires," while "water supply" has become "place where you get water."

In order to convey information to foreigners more easily during times of disasters, and because easy Japanese is more effective than foreign languages, the Social Language Research Center at Hirosaki University in Aomori Prefecture has created the "Basic Disaster Vocabulary 100: Easy Japanese edition." The new usages were announced on the organization's homepage on Jan. 17, the anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.


Compiling the glossary was based on compositions by pupils who lived through the 1983 Nihonkai-Chubu earthquake and the Hanshin disaster in 1995. The 100 most frequently used terms from the compositions were chosen. Of the 100, 47 phrases in the Japanese Proficiency Test, levels 1 and 2, have been rephrased to "easy Japanese."


Some examples of the rephrasing include such changes as "daishinsai" to "ookii jishin" and "kaichuu dentou" to "te ni motsu denki." Twenty foreigners were also asked about the changes in an effort to check their understanding of the rephrasing.


The recent vocabulary revamp is an attempt to avoid a reoccurence the events after the Hanshin quake, when a large number of foreigners were left out of the loop and stranded because the available disaster information was insufficient.


"In order to guide foreigners to evacuation centers and deliver the minimum necessary information to get by, using everyday, simple Japanese is faster than translating the information into English -- and it works better for people who speak other languages," said professor Kazuyuki Sato, of the Hirosaki research center.


The same researchers hope that local bodies, fire departments, and other volunteer groups will put the new vocabulary lists into practce when broadcasting information via radio and wireless communications and in foreigner-oriented disaster-prevention posters.


There are some Japanese who have the preconcieved notion that information must be conveyed to foreigners only in English or other foriegn languages --even times of disaster, but using simple Japanese as much as possible can also be extremely helpful," Sato said.

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