Hurricane Safety in Simple English

Aug 25, 2010 - 0 comments

Elizabeth Claire, who has taught English as a second language for 40 years, knows that many newcomers face geographical and climate shock as well as language challenges. They may have recently moved to the Gulf or East Coast for economic reasons, and not yet have a full sense of the dangers of a hurricane, nor how to prepare for a hurricane.

There are Spanish-language materials in many locations, but “Imagine a Russian or Bosnian, or Egyptian or Vietnamese family living without access to native-language TV hurricane advisories for their local area,” says Claire, who recently moved to Virginia Beach where she, too must learn where the evacuation routes are. Newcomers in hurricane-prone areas may get written information, but the language is too difficult for them. Long sentences, idiomatic usage, and words they have never heard before: storm surge, evacuation, shelter. They may not yet communicate well with their neighbors, and not be tuned in to English language local weather programs. They are among the most vulnerable residents of these hurricane prone areas.

Imagine a Russian or Bosnian, or Egyptian or Vietnamese family living without access to native-language TV hurricane advisories for their local area

The Government FEMA, NOAA, the National Weather Service, and the American Red Cross have excellent hurricane preparedness brochures and information at their websites. However, they are written in a style that does not take into consideration the language limitations of newcomers, who have been here a short time. None of them are comprehensive.

Examples from FEMA: Fuel and service your vehicle. . . . Stock up on batteries. These sentences present no problem for native English speakers. However, to a new speaker of English, the words fuel, service, vehicle, and stock up on present barriers to understanding:

From Elizabeth Claire: Is your car in good condition? Get repairs before hurricane season starts. Get gas for your car. . . .Have a flashlight and plenty of batteries. Claire has profusely illustrated her booklet with a map of hurricane-prone areas, pictures to show storm surge, storm damage, power lines down, floods, first aid kit, and dozens more. In a narrow column side by side with the main text Claire defines words such as season, path, shore, surge, high tide, alarm, destroy, fire hazard, and one hundred other words associated with hurricane preparation, survival and clean up. The definitions are in easy English.

Words such as power lines, live wires, carbon monoxide are new for our most recent residents. But they are a matter of life and death, too.

Company Information: Elizabeth Claire, Inc. has been making complex things simple for the past 30 years. The company publishes Easy English NEWS, a monthly newspaper on a wide variety of current topics designed for English language learners. They publish texts and resource books for teachers and students of English as a Second Language.

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