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Powerful new tool to help SLSQ beat beach language barriers

“Berenang di antara bendera merah dan kuning.”

To most people it won’t make sense, but Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is hoping the above phrase may one day save a life.

Indonesian for ‘swim between the flags’ it forms part of a powerful new tool designed to help surf lifesavers and lifeguards directly engage with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and communicate surf safety messages in their primary language.

SurfSpeak – a water-resistant booklet with phrases in 11 different languages – has been designed by University of Queensland staff member Mark Schroder in collaboration with SLSQ to help surf lifesavers and lifeguards communicate more easily with non-English speaking beachgoers.

It will be trialled at key beaches, including Surfers Paradise, Green Island and South Bank, across the peak summer months.

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) coastal safety officer Chantel Fife said the booklet would play a key role when it came to protecting beachgoers over the upcoming summer months.

“Queensland’s beautiful beaches attract thousands, if not millions, of international tourists each and every year and being able to communicate effectively with these people has proved to be extremely challenging for lifesavers and lifeguards in the past,” she said.

“Even simple messages such as ‘swim between the flags’ can become very difficult to communicate effectively when you don’t speak the same language.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this initiative will make our jobs a lot easier on the beach but, more importantly, will also play a key role in directly saving lives along Queensland’s coastline,” she said.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, 78 people have drowned on Queensland beaches, and 35 (44.8%) of those were international visitors or migrants.

Mr Schroder said the ability to communicate in multiple languages on the beach could be key to saving more lives across Queensland’s beaches.

“This booklet allows surf lifesavers to communicate on the spot to ensure important messages are understood, be it on the beach, the edge of the surf or even in the waves where they can see a dangerous situation unfolding,” he said.

“Our hope is that it will make surf lifesavers’ jobs a lot easier and will save them time, and will help them communicate the correct message to people to keep them out of trouble and potentially save their lives.”

Mr Schroder, said SurfSpeaklisted phrases that help deal with safety situations on the beach.

“The SurfSpeak booklet lists the phrases in English followed by the translation, allowing the lifesaver and beachgoer to understand each other and also contains a section to convey messages when a person goes missing,” he said.

“The ‘missing person’ section uses symbols to help the lifesaver gather information such as the missing person’s name, age, gender, medical conditions, and clothing worn to speed up the search process.”

SurfSpeak features phrases in Japanese, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Hindi, Malaysian, German, Arabic, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.

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