Background of Klaara
Ever since the 1980s, easy language (selkokieli, Easy Finnish; also easy-to-read, EtR; lättläst, Leichte Sprache) has been developed in Finland as a practical tool for people who struggle with understanding standard language. The number of people who need easy language has been gradually growing. In 2019, Selkokeskus, the Finnish Centre for Easy Language, assessed that as many as 750,000 people were at risk of social exclusion due to linguistic problems.
The development of society and the growing number of those needing easy language has also revealed a need for more research on easy language as well as training experts. So far, individual researchers have been responsible for research on the topic. However, a need for systematic research arising from both theoretical and applied starting points has been recently detected. In addition to research, there is a need for dialogue and collaboration between researchers. The Klaara Network of Finnish Easy Language Researchers was established in 2018 for promoting these aims.
The Klaara network is a low-hierarchy ecosystem whose goal is to create connections between easy language researchers, users, practical operators such as the Finnish Centre for Easy Language and LL-Center, and other agents. Klaara aims to promote the research of easy language and collaboration between researches from different fields. The network’s operations are founded on the Easy Finnish (selkokieli) and Easy Swedish (lättläst) developed in Finland, defined as follows: Easy Finnish (selkokieli) is easier to understand than Standard Finnish. Easy Finnish is a form of Finnish where the language has been adapted so that it is easier to read and understand in terms of content, vocabulary and structure. It is targeted at people who have difficulties with reading or understanding standard language. (Kotus / Selkokeskus)
We wish to use the Klaara network to promote the connection between research and the people who need easy language. Those who need easy language include immigrants studying the language, persons with developmental disabilities and older people with a memory disorder. Whatever the reason may be, we welcome everyone to participate in promoting research on easy language.
The ideological objective of our operations is to make the world a better place for those who can only use easy language.
Klaara’s activities are coordinated by the Selkokielen ytimessä (At the Core of Easy Language) project launched by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki in 2020–2022. The project is funded by Kone Foundation.
Klaara wishes to provide easy language researchers with support in developing their research ideas and communicating their societal message for the general public and media. Nevertheless, the researchers in the Klaara network are in charge of determining their own goals and obtaining research funding.
A steering group supports the activities in the Klaara network. The steering group has extensive competence in areas related to easy language research. Members are elected to the steering group in the network’s informal meeting (in Finnish), to which participants are invited through the mailing list. During the first term of the steering group 2020–2022, the members are Henna Kara, Johanna Komppa, Soilimaria Korhonen, Auli Kulkki-Nieminen, Camilla Lindholm, Leealaura Leskelä and Liisa Raevaara. Ulla Vanhatalo, the network coordinator, serves as the secretary for the steering group.