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Learn to communicate with newcomers

New app will help everyone in the community.

Imagine being forced to flee your home because of a civil war.

One day you’re going about your daily routine, enjoying life and cultural traditions with your family. The next day you’re scared to go outside because you might get blown to pieces by a bomb.

Hoping things will get better, you ride out the violence unfolding in your city, trying to go on with life as usual. But soon it becomes impossible and you make the decision to leave everything you’ve ever known behind to flee to a neighbouring country.

Unfortunately, this is the scenario for many refugees who’ve ended up in Victoria during the past few years.

Most of them didn’t have time to learn English before they fled their home with a few precious belongings. They’re just happy to escape the war and be in a safe place with their loves ones.

The language barrier, however, is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. With hundreds of refugees currently enrolled in English classes, the Greater Victoria Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) has come up with a simple but brilliant idea to help integrate them into the community.

The We Speak Translate project aims to get residents using the Google Translate App to communicate with refugees and newcomers who can’t speak English. Businesses, schools, community centres and other facilities that go through the brief training on how to use the app will receive a decal to display in their front window, letting refugees know they’ll be understood.

Many refugees already rely on the app to communicate, but according to the ICA, it’s the locals who aren’t too swift with using the technology.

We should all learn how to use the app to communicate with the region’s newcomers and make them feel welcome as they settle in to their new life in Canada.