Plain Language South Africa

I don’t regard myself as an activist and activism is certainly not the purpose of my blog, but when I came across the Plain Language Blogger competition (you can also visit their site) I thought it was a great opportunity to get some things off my chest.  (It also made me want to win the R1500 Kalahari voucher after I had a browse there, but that’s almost irrelevant)

You may or may not know that I am privileged enough to meet people from disadvantaged backgrounds every single day as part of my job.   I don’t mean disadvantaged because of their skin colour.  They are disadvantaged because of their circumstances.  I also certainly don’t mean that they are victims or have a victim mentality.

Many of them left school in Grade 10 because they had to work to support their families, had babies, couldn’t afford to go to school, was the victim of a crime or was a member of a gang and got kicked out of school.  Many MANY people finish Matric deep into their 20’s.

The majority of these people have very basic language skills – not just people who have English as their second or Third language.  English is their FIRST language.  Some of them cannot even spell the name of the suburb they live in, even though they have lived there all their lives.  Many of them don’t know how to construct a basic sentence.

These people are not stupid.  They are uneducated.  The Education system in this country is a crying shame and has failed them miserably.

The amount of people that pass through our office every day that are immensely talented breaks my heart.  For example:

The guy with the beautiful, beautiful long fingers.  I asked him if he played the piano.  No, he says, his school didn’t have a music teacher, but he does love playing the piano and taught himself.

The very enterprising guy that was telling me how much he loves writing and would love to be making films one day.  He has a business that makes video recording for African people of funerals.  A very lucrative business.  (I wanted to wrap the Internet up for that guy and give it to him as a gift)

I have a question I love to ask them: If I had a magic wand that I could wave and you could pick any career job in the world, what would it be?

95% of them say they want to work in an office.  Doing what? I would ask.  They want to help people like themselves is their answer, unfailingly.  99% of the time they have no idea to get from where they are to how to help other people.  They haven’t been taught about setting goals, about planning a budget, about saving for studies or a house or a pregnancy.

So sad, SO true.

Think about that document you write that you want your staff to read, think about that form you want someone to complete.  Think about the words you use to give someone an instruction.  Make sure they understand.  And for goodness sake, treat them with respect and dignity.

They deserve it.

One thought on “Plain Language South Africa”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *