In an era where digital spaces are essential to almost every area of our lives, one thing that many of us take for granted is the simple but essential ability to type and read in our own native languages. Yet at this moment and since the very beginning of the boom of the internet for all things work and play, there are millions upon millions of people whose languages are not part of this equation.
Today on the program we explore the landscape of languages that are not easily used or found online, despite their importance for the people who use them everyday and we as a global society who may not notice as we lose pieces of who we are as expressed by the diversity of languages in this world.
Over the past few months the story and struggle of people trying to make it to Germany, Austria, and neighboring countries has made headlines. They’re referred to as refugees, though at the latest hackathon in Berlin one participant remarked, “I’d rather be called a newcomer.”
The number one tool of the newcomer? — The mobile phone. The number one demand throughout the journey? – Power to charge them, wifi to transmit messages to concerned loved ones, for checking the map for other routes that offer safer passage, and possibly to communicate with those who might be waiting for them once they get to their destinations. But the phone and internet alone are not enough. To manage to get through the hardship of getting from Syria or Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan to the areas of Europe that welcome them.. the barriers are still many. The beast of bureaucracy that would drive even the most fluent German speaker mad, the landlord who won’t rent to “refugees”, the prestigious University that doesn’t recognize credits from some of Syria’s finest institutions. What can be done to overcome such barriers? Who is stepping up to help and how are they doing it?
Today on the podcast, we talk about tools for refugees, or as I’ll refer to them from now on in this program: newcomers.. recent arrivals.. those who are trying to start a life in a new place. What tools are they using and who is developing these tools. Specifically in the Berlin area, where hundreds if not thousands of volunteers are busy in so many ways, helping people arrive and get settled. They, like many of us, are learning as they go, and today we’re going to hear about what they’ve learned, what they’re creating, and how it is making a difference in this unprecedented moment in history.