SINCE the refugee crisis began, camps across Europe have been inundated with donations of food, money and warm winter clothes from across the globe.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Oxford University Press (OUP) has contributed in the way it knows best: helping refugees get to grips with the English language.
Copies of the Oxford Arabic Dictionary as well as learners’ and picture dictionaries have already been sent to a makeshift library in Calais, and now the Arabic dictionary has been made available online for free for refugees and aid agencies using a special password.
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Tressy Arts, editor of the dictionary, said: “Normally the Arabic dictionary is by subscription and the book’s very large and heavy, so it’s not feasible ideal if you’re on the move.
“The online version is easily accessible on mobile phones – which many of them have – and you can access it anywhere.
“We have heard from refugee organisations that people who come have very little English or other European languages. Any resource that helps them complete paperwork, or express what they need, or show where it hurts, or what they’re looking for, is very much appreciated.
“It can help you deal with all the forms and paperwork involved when you are a refugee.”
The Oxford Arabic Dictionary is split into two sections, Arabic to English and English to Arabic.
Its electronic counterpart also has special features for native English speakers, such as simpler ways to key in the Arabic alphabet and understanding the vowel system, to make it easier for aid workers on the ground to be understood.
So far it has been shared with up to 50 groups including Oxfam, Save the Children and UNHCR.
OUP has also made 30 legal documents, book chapters and articles free so that agencies and refugees can get to grips with the British asylum system.
Judy Pearsall, editorial director of Oxford Dictionaries, said: “We are constantly looking at ways to help that are central to what we do, which are about learning and education and communication rather than giving money to charity.
“As a publisher we are not usually in a position to provide clothes and food, but on the other hand we have something that can enrich people on their journey.
“Our Arabic dictionary was launched a few years ago. It is the largest English to Arabic dictionary of its kind in the world and deals with current, ‘real’ words to do with travel, work, and getting on the phone. We have had some really nice early feedback and are waiting to see how people use it.”
The six-month Oxford Arabic Dictionary initiative was launched in mid-December.