Photo/IllutrationIn an evacuation training session, foreign students pretend to be tourists and obey commands issued in multiple languages on Oct. 25 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. (Satoru Semba)

Japanese facilities are being told to dumb down their vernacular when advising foreigners during a disaster.

Simple words and phrases to replace timeworn ones will be introduced by the government.

And if disaster strikes, staffers are expected to use the recommendations to advise and direct foreigners at stations, hotels, sports fields and elsewhere.

The new disaster lexicon is scheduled to be completed by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the telecommunications ministry by March 2018. It will then be promoted at facilities across Japan.

With the number of foreign visitors expected to spike even higher as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games approaches, the agency has been working out how it can best help them in an emergency.

As the foreign language ability of Japanese people varies drastically, it was decided to deal with emergency situations with easy-to-understand local lingo.

It also took on board a suggestion that if Japanese tried haplessly to communicate to visitors in a foreign tongue, it might end up having the reverse effect of fueling the fears of the person they are trying to help.

Firefighters and police officers in the United States are trained to use “plain English,” the agency said.

Its new emergency lexicon will include Japanese words that foreigners living in Japan for a year would probably understand.

For example, the usual noun used for "danger" in Japan is "kiken," but foreigners with limited Japanese ability are much more likely to understand the common spoken word for danger, which is "abunai."

The assumption is as follows: Even if the words are spoken to foreigners with no Japanese skills, some people present may understand and be able to help translate.

Alternatively, foreigners could follow such people who have already begun evacuating based on correctly processing information.

In a nutshell, sentences should be short and spoken slowly and clearly.

This principle can even benefit Japanese residents who may be in a panicked situation.

The agency is not simply trying to simplify the language, but also to show empathy toward foreigners who may be confused or worried, and to communicate properly rather than just engaging in a one-sided conversation.

To identify problems in advance, the agency will, up until December, conduct trial evacuation training in which foreign students in Japan will pretend to be visitors. Then, from fiscal 2018, it will notify each of the facilities throughout Japan of the new guidelines.