UW Stevens Point professor and students create refugee dictionary
STEVENS POINT – When a friend posted on social media this spring that he would soon be hosting a Ukrainian family and that it would be useful to have a dictionary to help him overcome the language barrier, Pam Terrell decided to help.
Terrell, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, contacted graduate students Morgan Knutson and Breanna Wolter in late March and by mid-May a “refugee dictionary” was ready for action.
The dictionary includes around 150 words translated into six languages, including Ukrainian, and pictures for each word.
The project was a collaboration between people from several different countries. Terrell’s friend, who lives in the Netherlands, made a list of words the refugee family staying with her would use.
“They came up with (a set of questions, phrases and vocabulary) based on real experiences of what refugees needed to communicate,” Terrell said. , things related to finding a job, cooking, chores, shopping, really basic things.
Another friend, a linguist living in Germany, offered to translate the words into six languages: Ukrainian, English, French, German, Dutch and Russian.
Knutson and Wolter, who both work at the university’s Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic, added pictures to the dictionary. They matched the words to illustrations in Boardmaker, a communication tool that uses pictures and written words to help non-verbal people communicate.
“Easy (phrases), like ‘hello’, were pretty easy to find pictures. Sometimes there was more than one, so we just had to pick one phrase. But for the most part, I think it was relatively easy to get a shot,” Knutson said. “Once we had it all figured out on how to integrate the translations into the software, it didn’t take very long.”
Terrell said the dictionary was well received by the Ukrainian family and they found it useful.
Although there are no plans to mass-produce the dictionary, if there is anyone who could benefit from a tool like this, they can contact Terrell at [email protected]
“I was thrilled to be part of something that was even bigger than this program or this university,” Wolter said. “I don’t know how many people it affects, but we can help all these different people.”
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