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Re: plain/simple/easy language variant subtag

From: Gregg Vanderheiden <gregg@raisingthefloor.org>
Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2015 20:21:32 -0500
Cc: Tobias Bengfort <tobias.bengfort@posteo.de>, IG - WAI Interest Group List list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <F8DAA6FB-1848-4301-9269-274BA76C5995@raisingthefloor.org>
To: Chaals McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>


Gregg Vanderheiden

> On Sep 14, 2015, at 6:14 PM, Chaals McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru> wrote:
> On Mon, 14 Sep 2015 22:02:19 +0200, Gregg Vanderheiden
> <gregg@raisingthefloor.org> wrote:
>> I presume the simple web page would be at a different URL than the other — so having the simple >language tag would not help those who landed on the original page.  Or are you thinking of another >arrangement.
> Using HTML like
> <link rel="alternate" href="plainer.html" hreflang="en-cerfA2">
> would enable simple browser customisation to switch to the simpler version.

GV2: I wonder how many people who need plain language know how to use browser customization to switch versions.    Probably a good place for a plug in that would make a big clear switch...
>> MOSTLY I have seen language tags used to identify the language not the language level.   And it is >used for accurate presentation or pronunciation.  What did you see as the purpose of the tag for >language level?
> "complex language" and "a different language" are really the same thing.

GV2: I thought that too — but am told it is quite a different thing.  
> A simple version of english like globish can be something that is always
> also english - but not all english is always globish.
> In other cases, the simple language can have some rules that are not true
> in the "more complicated" version.

GV2: True
>> What I have seen done  with simple language pages - is to either
>> 1. provide a link off of the usual landing page  - to the simpler version of the page.
> If you have a language tag for the simple language, then you can make the link automatically work for people. Or make it easy to find in the browser, instead of having to look for it in each, where people often have a different place to put it, and a different way to explain what it is.
>> It is a tough problem - including because (after you get rid of any unnecessary complexity or complex language on the page) making the page or the language simpler usually involves losing some information.
> In my experience, information does not need to be lost. Only literature, drama, poetry, usually have information that cannot be separated from the words and style used.

GV2: Try writing a physics site in plain language.  Or most science sites.    Or other many other non-technical sites as well.    Explain how congress works - really works. 

It isn’t a matter of just not using long words.    it is actually very hard to do. 

Of course it depends on what you definition of plain language is.  Some only say “as simple as possible”  which means it can be completely over people’s heads. 

Remember that I said - after the unnecessary complexity is removed…       There is much that CAN be rewritten in plain(er) simpler language without losing content.   But there is also much that can’t.   and there are many that cannot understand things even when written in plain language.      If we want to reach them - we must write in simpler language too - using only simpler concepts. 
Hence my suggestion of the need for layers of simplification. 

> Instead, in english simple text is often longer. So having the "not simple" version helps some people read it faster. This is not true for all languages - often I find making spanish simpler doesn't make it longer.
>> So it is desirable to simplify it in stages - so that people of all
>> levels can understand it — but those who can understand more lose less information.
> That can help. In practice it is very expensive. If people do not know *how well* they can read, and pick the wrong level, then it does not help.

GV2: see below.  I don’t think anyone can pick the level they understand.  (i.e.  I agree) 
>> There is no language that is plain enough for all.
> True enough. But we can make a lot of text better, really helping people, even if we can't be perfect.
>> What I really wish for is a translation program that can translate between language levels WITHIN a language - rather than between them - so that everyone can get things explained to them in a form they can individually understand. So a tool that can start high and then be turned down until someone can understand — and then turned back up so they can understand more as they move up (with supports to help them)  would give each person maximal access -  and the ability to learn more by getting the basic idea and then having it elaborated - if and as they wish.  But I fear it will be awhile before we have that.
> There is no reason we cannot do this with existing technology.

GV2: ???    You know of technology I don’t.    I was asking about this for the last year and couldnt find anyone who knew of how to (or even knew someone who might know how).  

If you know of something that can do this - please post more info.   That would be a  great breakthrough. 

> But automated translation of semantics is still very unreliable. Reading an automatically translated document is easy enough for people who have high reading skills, and can spot errors made by the machine and fix them in their heads.

GV2: Now I’m confused.  I thought you were saying it could be done - making things automatically readable at a lower language level. 

> The best tool for good simple expression is a skilful editor. It is very hard to do, but not impossible. Some of those people make a lot of money with their skills.

GV2: AND it is very hard.   I often challenge people asking for plain language to write to me only using plain language.   it is not easy to do.   

As an example — try writing this email (including responses) in plain language.   

I love this quote from WIKIPEDIA (and this is NOT a satire)
Most literacy <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy> and communications scholars agree that plain language means:
"Clear and effective communication" (Joseph Kimble <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joseph_Kimble&action=edit&redlink=1>)
"The idiomatic and grammatical use of language that most effectively presents ideas to the reader" (Bryan Garner <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Garner>)
"Clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of ... language." (Dr Robert Eagleson <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Robert_Eagleson&action=edit&redlink=1>)
"A literary style that is easy-to-read because it matches the reading skill of the audience" (William DuBay <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_DuBay>)

I doubt that any of these are plain language themselves.  Even the first is somewhat questionable.  

> Maybe that is why so often we don't pay much attention to the problem :(

GV2:  I think we pay LOTS of attention to this.  We spent much more time on cognitive than we did on any other disability group when working on WCAG 2.0.   And there are more provisions dealing with cognitive than most any other disability.    But there is not nearly enough - even with that.   

I don’t think the problem is that we don’t pay enough attention.    I just don’t think we know how to do it.    That is different I think.   And harder to solve. 

Can someone translate this email into plain language?     (and record the time that it takes as well)

Now everyone try it. 

(Although I think it is a great practice — and something we should all try hard to do. —  I think it is very hard for many/most — and we won’t really see it as a viable solution until we have automated tools — which will be a really great breakthrough.)

Good discussion. 

Others thoughts?  

> cheers
> Chaals
> -- 
> Charles McCathie Nevile - web standards - CTO Office, Yandex
>   chaals@yandex-team.ru - - - Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Tuesday, 15 September 2015 01:21:11 UTC

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