Easy Language: What is it and why is it important?

The most frequently asked questions about easy-to-understand language and barrier-free information

Easy Language is a simple version of standard language. Its goal is to make information easier to understand. It deliberately uses simple words, short sentences and a clear structure. Easy Language is part of easy-to-understand language.

 

Easy-to-understand language goes even further and serves as an umbrella term for Simple Language, Easy Reading and also Easy Language.

 

In this text, we explain the many terms and most common questions about easy-to-understand language, and explain who can benefit from it.

Why is easy-to-understand language so important?

 

Many people have difficulty understanding information. For example: a letter from the insurance company or a letter from court. Texts in easy-to-understand language help make complex information more understandable.

We believe that everyone should have access to information and be able to understand it.

Easy-to-understand language enables understanding, promotes participation and is therefore an important step towards greater inclusion in our society. This is why it is also important for companies and public institutions to pay attention to barrier-free communication.

Click here, if you want to know more about barrier-free information.

Want an example?

The sentence “All guests should use public transportation” can be difficult to understand for many people.

It’s easier if you rephrase the sentence: “Use the tramway or the bus.”

The difference between these two sentences may seem small, but the second wording can be much easier to understand and more accessible to many people.

Why? The second sentence becomes easier to understand by directly addressing the recipient and specifying public transportation. Also, because it is a clear instruction, the sentence becomes simpler.

The most important target groups for easy-to-understand language include people with learning difficulties or low language skills. But people who have difficulty with complex texts or are confronted with a lot of information in everyday life also benefit from Easy Language.

Content

What is easy-to-understand language?

Easy-to-understand language is the umbrella term for texts written in Easy Language, Simple Language or Easy Reading.

 

The common denominator: the texts are, as the name suggests, easy to understand. The texts avoid complicated words or sentences and aim to be as clear and simple as possible.

 

The following graphic shows you how easy-to-understand language is categorized.

There are three levels of easy-to-understand language: A1, A2 and B1

Plain language, easy-to-understand language and simple language - overview

What is Simple Language?

Simple Language is a simplified version of colloquial or everyday language.

 

It often differs only slightly from the original texts and is not visually recognizable at first glance as a text in easy-to-understand language.

 

The language level used for Simple Language is approximately B1. In Simple Language, sentences are shorter and the sentence structure is simpler than in standard language.

 

Simple Language avoids foreign words, technical terms and metaphors wherever possible.

 

The goal of Simple Language is to inform and reach as many people as possible. This includes people with low reading skills.

What is Easy Language?

Easy Language is often confused with Simple Language – but there are clear differences.

This is partly because Easy Language was developed specifically for people with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Easy Language, as mentioned in the introduction, is a simple version of standard language that makes information easier to understand. Easy Language is part of easy-to-understand language and is considered a subset of barrier-free information.

It includes language rules, content rules, and spelling rules. There are also recommendations for text design, because barriers can also occur in media design.

You can read more about text design for easy-to-read texts in our blog article here.

Texts that are created according to the Easy Language framework roughly correspond to the capito language levels A2 to A1.

Unlike Simple Language, Easy Language follows its own clear rules – also for spelling.

In Easy Language, you can form grammatically incomplete sentences.

For example:

Our family is big. We have three pets. A cat. A dog. And a bunny.

What is Easy Reading?

Easy Reading refers to texts that have been created according to the TÜV-certified capito method.

capito has developed a level model for easy-to-understand language. The thing is that people with low language skills do not always need Easy Language for every text.

 

On the other hand, for some topics, even people with good reading skills need a text in an easy-to-understand version. For example: a complex letter from the insurance company or a court.

 

So the appropriate language level depends not only on reading skills, but also on prior knowledge and experience. The capito method is the only one that allows people to choose for themselves which language level is right for them.

 

The method is currently based on 90 criteria, which are defined in a criteria catalogue and vary depending on the language level.

 

Graphic level model of the language levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 from capito

The rules for Easy Language apply to the language levels “Easy Reading A2” and “Easy Reading A1”. Language level B1 more or less corresponds to texts in Plain Language.

 

In the capito method, representatives of the target group check each text for comprehensibility.

 

Texts that have been created according to the capito method and checked by a review group receive the quality seal for Easy Reading. The quality seal shows that the capito quality standard has been met.

What is Easy Language Plus?

The term “Easy Language Plus” is a version of Easy Language that is becoming more and more popular.  Easy Language Plus is more complex than Easy Language and corresponds approximately to language level A2. The term was created by Isabel Rink and Christiane Maaß from the University of Hildesheim.

Why is easy-to-understand language so important?

In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, around 24 million people cannot read or write properly. Therefore, many people depend on information in Easy Language.

However, most of the information issued by companies and authorities is so complicated that many people cannot understand it.

This results in increased costs due to:

  • complaints
  • excessive inquiries to customer service

  • cancellations

  • reading time (or comprehension of instructions and information)

  • workplace accidents

  • lost trust among customers and employees

Not only public institutions but also companies from various industries are becoming more and more aware of the importance of easy-to-understand communication. 

 

By the way: Did you know that an accident at work costs a company on average 3000 €? Such costs can be prevented through information that is easy to understand. You can read more about this in our blog post: “Easy Language in Business and Industry” – „Leichte Sprache in Wirtschaft und Industrie“ (in German only).

If information is also available in Easy Language, more people will understand it. This not only prevents misunderstandings and misinformation but also promotes barrier-free access and inclusion.

After all, reading and understanding texts are essential requirements for an independent life.

3 good reasons for easy-to-understand and barrier-free communication

Inclusion

Barrier-free language contributes directly to an inclusive society, enabling people to live self-determined lives.

Reach

When you make information easy to understand, more people will understand you. Your information reaches more people.

Comprehensibility

If you communicate in a way that is easy to understand, your information will be understood. You avoid misunderstandings and increase satisfaction.

Where is Easy Language being used?

In principle, Easy Language is used wherever many people need to be reached easily and quickly.

 

This means that Easy Language is used by companies and businesses as well as public authorities, offices and institutions.

capito has a wide range of references and projects throughout the DACH region.

 

In Germany, capito has had the pleasure of working with the Federal Ministry of Health, the Diakonie Schleswig-Holstein or dpa.

 

Our clients in Austria include the Federal Ministry of Justice, APA, ORF, Bank Austria, AMS and the Styrian Chamber of Labor.

What are the capito language levels for Easy Reading?

capito translates texts into three different language levels. These are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is the European standard for evaluating language competence.

Level A indicates elementary language use, Level B indicates independent language use, and Level C indicates competent language use. Each level is additionally divided into two levels. capito focuses on the language levels A1, A2 and B1:

  • Easy Reading Level A1

    A1 stands for the easiest level to understand. Only simple, familiar words and short sentences are used. The content is summarized and reduced to the essential information.

  • Easy Reading Level A2

    Information in A2 explains a particular topic in a way that allows readers to understand the most important information and act on it. A2 is more detailed than A1 and explains many important concepts in a way that is easy to understand.

  • Easy Reading Level B1

    Information in B1 is understandable to most people. B1 corresponds to simple colloquial language. Technical terms and foreign words are avoided so that people who are not experts in a particular field can understand everything.

How many people understand which language level?

In the German-speaking countries, 93% of people understand language levels A1, A2, B1 and B2.

 

Only 7% of people understand language levels C1 and C2.

 

But a full 74% of the information issued by companies and public authorities is written in language levels C1 and C2.

 

This means that a large part of the information can not be understood.

How many people need easy-to-understand language?

At capito, we refer to texts written in the language levels A1, A2 and B1 as easy-to-understand information. 60% of people rely on these texts.

 

The target group for easy-to-understand texts is not only people with learning difficulties or people with a different first language. Reading difficulties cut across the entire population.

Model showing the different language levels according to the CEFR

This is a problem. Because only if you understand information, you can make truly informed and self-determined decisions. Reading and understanding texts are essential prerequisites for an independent life.

You see: comprehensible texts benefit a large portion of people. It's not just about simplifying texts. It's about writing a text in a way that as many people as possible can understand it.

At capito, we place great emphasis on writing a text in a way that can be easily understood by as many people as possible.
The target groups of a piece of information are often very distinct.
That’s why you can’t just say: “Make it easy to understand for everyone”. A text could still be too difficult for some, and inappropriate for others. And that would not do justice to the diversity of our society at all.

Every person likes to be addressed in the language level that suits them, so that there is no over- or under-challenging in terms of content and language. That is why it makes sense to offer several language levels. This way, everyone can choose the language level that suits them best.

Here you can see how the same text can look in the language levels B1, A2 and A1:

Text und Grafik der Sprachstufe B1: Unsere Anwendung capito digital untersucht deinen Text mit künstlicher Intelligenz. Du erhältst praktische Tipps wie du diesen Text leicht verständlich schreiben kannst.
Text und Grafik Sprachstufe A2: Unser Computer-Programm "capito digital" untersucht automatisch, wie verständlich ein Text ist. Du lädst deinen Text einfach hoch. Wir geben dann Tipps zum Verbessern.
Wir haben eine Internet-Seite. Diese Internet-Seite untersucht deinen Text: Ist der Text leicht verständlich? Wir geben dir Tipps zum Verbessern. Diese Internet-Seite heißt capito digital.

Does that sound complicated and like a lot of work to you? We have good news for you: With capito digital you can write information in different language levels easily, quickly and efficiently.

Find out more!

Does information have to be barrier-free?

Yes, there is a legal obligation for accessibility.

The basis for these laws is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention emphasizes the obligation of states to enable people with disabilities to live self-determined lives with equal rights. Inclusion, participation and accessibility are key topics of the UN CRPD.

In addition, there are national laws that specifically regulate the rights of persons with disabilities.

The individual states must implement the UN Disability Convention in the National Action Plans (NAPs). In addition, the respective monitoring committee is responsible for ensuring that implementation is followed.

Legal situation in Germany

In Germany, accessibility is regulated under the Equal Opportunities Act for Persons with Disabilities (Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz).

The law is intended to prevent disadvantage or discrimination against people with disabilities and to enable people with disabilities to participate in social life on an equal basis. Among other things, the law stipulates the obligation to provide barrier-free access to buildings, transport, communication and information.

The law has been in place since 2002.

Legal situation in Austria

In Austria, there is the Act on Equal Treatment of Persons with Disabilities (Gesetz zur Gleichbehandlung von Menschen mit Behinderung).

The law aims to enable equal participation in life and society and to prevent or eliminate discrimination. Accessibility plays an important role in this: the law defines that all goods, services and information intended for the public must also be offered in a barrier-free manner.

The law came into force in 2006.

Legal situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland, there is the Federal Law on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Bundesgesetz über die Beseitigung von Benachteiligungen von Menschen mit Behinderungen).

The law aims to facilitate participation in social life and to prevent, reduce or completely eliminate disadvantages. Among other things, the law addresses barrier-free access to buildings, transportation, employment, and services. However, there is no obligation for private companies to be barrier-free. Only discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited.

The law came into force in 2004.

You want to make your information and services barrier-free?

Feel free to contact us! At capito, experts advise you on the subject of accessible information. With capito’s help, you can make your information barrier-free with ease!

How does capito go about translating texts into easy-to-understand language?

The translation into easy-to-understand language follows strict rules. The high quality standards of capito can only be achieved by adhering to these criteria.

An integral part of our work is the review of translated content by the target group. A text only meets the capito quality standard, if the content meets the formal and content-related points of the capito criteria catalogue and is understood by the target group.

After translation in our office, the content is awarded the quality seal for easy reading.

The capito method is the only one in the German-speaking world that has annual TÜV certification.

1. Precise coordination with the client

Together with the client, we discuss the project in order to find the best solution for the client and the target group.

2. Translation based on the criteria catalogue

The criteria catalogue specifies exactly which criteria to follow when translating into Easy Reading.

3. Control by the test group

In the last step, people from the target group check whether the information is actually easy-to-understand. Only then, the capito quality standard is considered to be met.

What is barrier-free information?

The term barrier-free does not only refer to the comprehensibility of information. Barrier-free communication includes all measures that help to reduce different communication barriers.

 

In addition to language, the design of texts through font type and size or technical aspects such as video subtitles also count towards making information barrier-free.

 

The various barriers include for example:

Visual barriers

The design of information contributes significantly to barrier-free accessibility. For example, very small or squiggly fonts are not barrier-free.

Or can YOU read this text well?

Auditory barriers

These include, for example, videos or podcasts without subtitles or transcripts. They are not barrier-free for people who cannot hear well.

Haptic barriers

Haptic barriers can occur with analogue and digital information products. For example, a certain thickness of paper may be difficult to turn pages or a button on a website may be too small to click.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider! To make your information barrier-free, you should first take a close look at your target group. What barriers could arise? What do you have to consider if you want to make the information as barrier-free as possible?

In principle, well-designed information is always barrier-free!

After all, everyone benefits from barrier-free design – both online and offline. No one wants to be bothered with unwieldy information that is difficult to read or understand.

How can capito assist you with Easy Language?

Barrier-free communication is a complex subject area. There is a lot to consider and take into account – and last but not least, creating easy-to-understand information is also a matter of practice.

 

We have developed various service offerings, so that as many people as possible can benefit from barrier-free information. We support you in making your information available in a barrier-free way.

capito digital

capito digital is a tool for Easy Language that helps you write easy-to-understand texts.

Trainings

Learn how to create barrier-free and easy-to-understand information yourself.

Translation services

We translate information into easy-to-understand language and prepare content for the target group.