You’ll all be familiar with the idea of the world becoming smaller as fast-paced communications connect even the remotest places on earth to the wider world. With the click of a button we can instantly be in touch with someone as far afield as Siberia in the far north and Antarctica in the far south. But does the amount of communicating we’re doing necessarily mean that we’re understanding each other?
I don’t have to dig too deep into my own experiences of travel outside New Zealand to know how difficult a language difference can make life. I even remember once falling into the dire trap of increasing my volume to try to get my message across. How was that ever going to work? Luckily for me (but not the poor person I was talking to), our topic of attempted conversation wasn’t too important.
So what must life be like for the many migrants who make their way to New Zealand each year and don’t speak English fluently? To put things in perspective, a quarter of New Zealand’s population was born overseas. And for many of these people, English is their second — or even third — language. Imagine what these statistics mean for an organisation like Immigration New Zealand (INZ), which needs to communicate ideas, many of them complex, through a variety of mediums every day.
At the end of November last year, supporters of the annual Plain English Awards celebrated its 2017 winners at a ceremony in Wellington. INZ was one of the Awards’ valuable sponsors, and representative Anne-Marie Masgoret gave a brief address during the ceremony. While no one in the audience needed any reminding of the importance and value of plain English, Anne-Marie’s words served as terrific reinforcement.
‘Moving to live and work in a new country involves finding out a great deal of information that locals simply take for granted,’ Anne-Marie explained.
INZ’s goal is to help migrants make New Zealand their home. They aim to support these people to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of New Zealand life. And they do this by communicating clearly and simply through a variety of mediums.
INZ also relies on other organisations to deliver their message directly to migrants.
‘New Zealand organisations are very good at providing newcomers with information. However, the information provided is not always written in a user-friendly way,’ said Anne-Marie.
‘For those new to New Zealand, the quality of information migrants receive as they settle into their new life here can make all the difference in the way they settle into this country and make it their home. It can also make a difference to whether a newcomer acts on information or just ignores it.’
To support organisations to write clear communications, INZ created the Keeping It Clear resource. This aims to help organisations create or rewrite information in a short, simple, and easy-to-understand format.
Check out INZ’s Keeping it Clear resource
Find out about the winners of the 2017 Plain English Awards