Research Areas

4. Easy-to-Read and Plain Language


Easy-to-Read, Plain and Citizen-oriented Language

In the past few years, the EU has taken a number of active steps toward text simplification. This has resulted in a large variety of simplified texts being commercially available. Currently, there are at least six different sets of guidelines to translate content from standard to Easy-to-Read Language, but most are not research-based. Also, research in the field of Easy-to-Read Language still lacks a precise data-driven definition that delimits Easy-to-Read Language from its Plain and Citizen-oriented counterparts (Bock 2014). The transition from one variant to the other should instead be considered as a continuum (Bock 2014; Siegel and Lieske 2014).

Since the first guidelines for Easy-to-Read Language stemmed from social work practices, research findings in linguistics and translation studies have hardly been considered in the process of transferring “difficult” to “easy”. Also, it is not ascertained whether the production of texts in Easy-to-Read, Plain and Citizen-oriented Language implies a pure act of translation, a partial translation in combination with copywriting, or a re-creation of the original text.

Research Area 4 will investigate whether the degree of text simplification should be determined on an individual basis, depending on target group and text function or, alternatively, whether it can be generalised. This analysis will be carried out in collaboration with the target groups. These may include people with (temporary) cognitive or mental impairments, functional illiterates, migrants with little knowledge of the local language, people with learning difficulties, the elderly and laypeople with no specialised knowledge.

In a series of sample analyses, commercial texts will be tested against comprehensibility and observance of guidelines. Preliminary results have shown that even if a text complies with a set of guidelines, these are often not consistently adhered to in the overall text production.

The classical translation process from language A to language B can be at least partially applied to translation into Easy-to-Read, Plain and Citizen-oriented Language. However, textual additions may often be necessary. Sample texts in the three variants will be produced in collaboration with the translation students of the Bachelor’s and Master’s programme in Applied Linguistics of the ZHAW and will then be evaluated in cooperation with the target groups.

The main objectives of Research Area 4 are therefore:

  • To analyse and evaluate sample texts in Easy-to-Read, Plain and Citizen-oriented Language by practice partners or students of the ZHAW.
  • To compile and assess existing guidelines for Easy-to-Read, Plain and Citizen-oriented Language.
  • To derive guidelines from established translation and/or copywriting strategies for the translation of “difficult” language into “easy” language.



  • Bock, Bettina M. 2014. “‘Leichte Sprache’: Abgrenzung, Beschreibung und Problemstellungen aus Sicht der Linguistik.” In Sprache barrierefrei gestalten. Perspektiven aus der Angewandten Linguistik (TRANSÜD69), edited by Susanne J. Jekat, Heike E. Jüngst, Klaus Schubert and Claudia Villiger, 17-52. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
  • Siegel, Melanie, and Christian Lieske. 2015. “Beitrag der Sprachtechnologie zur Barrierefreiheit: Unterstützung für Leichte Sprache.” trans-kom 8, no. 1: 40-78. Last access: 28.12.2017.