Two UWSP students create a refugee dictionary to help with communication

Dictionary consists of pictures and words to make communication easier
The tool was created by 2 UWSP students and their professor
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 8:07 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Communication between Ukrainian refugees and their host families just got easier thanks to the help of two University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point students.

The students created a refugee dictionary to help people who don’t speak the same language communicate. The dictionary consists of a collection of 124 everyday words and pictures to make it easier to communicate.

“So it’s English, Dutch, French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian,” said Pamela Terrell, a communication sciences and disorders professor at UWSP.

The idea came from Professor Terrell’s Facebook group. Terrell said she met a German linguist online who wanted to create a way to talk to the refugees she was helping.

“And I said you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s already software that we use in communication disorders for people who can’t communicate, that we could use to go along with this project,” said Terrell.

The linguist gave the speech-language pathology students and their professor a list of everyday words used by refugees.

“The language communication board is a file that has 6 different languages, with common words and phrases. As well as pictures for people that speak different languages to communicate with one another,” said Breanna Wolter, a UWSP graduate student.

Breanna Wolter and her peer Morgan Knutson used the ‘Boardmaker’ program to create the dictionary.

“We took the excel document and then took the English word and then put it into ‘Boardmaker’ so that we could get the picture of the word,” said Wolter.

The dictionary has a variety of words to choose from.

“The refugee dictionary has a bunch of different categories of food, clothing, words related to babies, and transportation,” said Wolter.

Wolter says being able to help is the most rewarding part.

“Just to be able to help them communicate because it is such a necessity and really helps them feel connected and included,” said Wolter.

The students and professor said they’re thankful to be a part of the project and help refugees in their time of need.

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