By Ingrid Süßmann
The media is full of news about the current refugee crisis with thousands of people arriving in Europe daily, and many more will follow. Help is needed everywhere, especially when it comes to communication. German Publishers Langenscheidt and Reise Know-How have come up with a very effective way to provide support for volunteers and refugees alike: they have made their vocabulary books and audiobooks available for free to those who work with asylum-seekers: word-for-word translations, spoken phrases and easy search functions have already proven to be incredibly helpful tools for volunteers and refugees as they try to communicate across language barriers.
In cooperation with the authorities and refugee initiatives, Langenscheidt is planning a picture-dictionary to break down communication barriers: “Reactions have been overwhelming. On Facebook alone more than 35,000 people have liked our announcement to grant free access to the German-Arabic dictionary. For several weeks, we’ve been planning new projects and products to overcome communication barriers and simplify support and integration. To achieve this, we’re working closely together with the authorities, organizations and refugee initiatives.”
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the Frankfurt Book Fair and LitCam are also rallying together and have started a new initiative called “Bücher sagen Willkommen” (Books Say Welcome), chaired by this year’s German Peace Prize Winner, Navid Kermani. The goal is to provide language-learning and educational centers in facilities close to refugee accommodations. The focus of this initiative is mainly on dictionaries and textbooks for learning German, but fiction and nonfiction titles as well as children’s books in different languages will also be made available. Booksellers can join the initiative by collecting donations from their customers or organizing readings and events, the proceeds of which will go towards the initiative.
Additionally, the Frankfurt Book Fair is allowing free entry into the fair for refugees. There will be a “Welcome Place” and events that cater to the needs of refugees as well as guided tours around the fairgrounds. Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, said: “This year we’re inviting people who had to flee their home countries to visit the book fair and to join the discussion. With this initiative we would like to, once again, initiate the dialogue between the cultures and help overcome possible reservations.”