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Clear text by law: New Zealand wants a simple official language

Clear text by law: New Zealand wants a simple official language

“Although he was ignorant of what was being said at the time, Zwetschkenbaum could easily have imagined that he remained the subject of conversation. The circumstances that arose later indicated that Spinandl had triumphed in butchering words.” In their incomprehensible language.

But regardless of whether the old Austrian office style in k. & K. TIME or the New Zealand government speaking in 2022 – the essence is the same: it is the recipient who makes the message. And for this he does not need a “word of massacre”, but needs terms. “The New Zealand government is now trying to draw a thick red line under the terminology by enacting a new law requiring bureaucrats to use clear and understandable language when communicating with the public,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper said.

AFP/Mark Mitchell

If the law is passed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern must speak “clearly and concisely”.

Clear language as a matter of social justice

She added that the bill, which is not without controversy, was approved in the second reading last month after an active parliamentary debate, but now has to undergo a final vote before the final law is passed.

The explicit bill states that the government’s communication with the public must be “clear, concise, concise and purposeful.” Not least that clear language is a matter of social justice and democratic right, so the argument goes.

The right to be understood as a goal

In specific terms, it means: “People living in New Zealand have the right to understand what the government is asking of them, what their rights are and what the government’s rights are for them,” Social Democratic MP Rachel Boyak was quoted as saying. . I submitted the invoice.

Furthermore: “When governments communicate in ways that people do not understand, it can lead to people not using the services available to them, a loss of trust in government and their inability to participate fully in society.” The language is not English, who have not attended university, who live with a disability or who are already of advanced age.

Signing a contract

Getty Images / istockphoto / Nati Mebian

The goal of the new law is to communicate in a way that everyone can understand

Law instead of poetry

Her fellow New Zealand parliamentarian, Sarah Palette, also supported the government’s plan: flowery language belongs in poetry and literature, but not in legislation.

The Guardian gave a few example sentences to illustrate what the new law could mean linguistically. They all have one thing in common: active instead of the passive, verbs instead of proofs, simple and short instead of complex and complex sentences, and clear terms instead of technical ones.

Criticize bureaucracy and costs

But according to the Guardian, not everyone has the support of the bill. Critics argue that some parts of the law of clear language – paradoxically – did not define themselves clearly.

In addition, the New Zealand opposition fears that the bill will lead to more bureaucracy and costs. After all, administrators are needed to check out the new rules. Right-wing Liberal Representative Chris Bishop, for example, has spoken of “the dumbest law ever introduced to Parliament in this legislative period.”

Confusion end?

Admittedly, proponents see things differently: costs will be saved, because improved understanding will mean better compliance with tax regulations in the future, for example. In addition, there was a need for fewer employees in call centers who would have to deal with the “confused public”.

However, New Zealand linguist Andrea Claud was skeptical: language is not an objective representation of reality. “We all use language to try to shape the scenes we describe in a way that works for us.” Plain text may leave a little less room – but simpler sentences are not an automatic path to a simpler reality.

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