In today's blog, Quality and Evaluation Officer Rachael talks us through why our information gives us a reason to celebrate. 

What is the European Day of Languages?

It’s an annual celebration of language learning and cultural diversity in Europe.

What are we doing to celebrate?

We’re promoting:

  • the information we’ve translated into different languages
  • the ways we make all our information easier to read.

Our cancer information in European (and other) languages

If you or someone you know has cancer, getting the right information at the right time can make all the difference. It can help you:

  • understand more about the cancer
  • make decisions
  • feel less anxious
  • get the support you need.

This why we’ve translated our most commonly requested information into our top 11 community languages. We chose these languages to reflect:

  • population levels across the UK
  • levels of need
  • the availability of high quality cancer information from other sources.

We check the language list every 2 years to make sure it’s still right. Among European languages, you can find Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian.

This image shows a splay of booklets in other languages

How we make our information easier to read

English can seem confusing and illogical when it’s your second language – and even for many native speakers. Here are some of the things we do to make our information about cancer easier to read.

  • We use short, simple words. Why say ‘indicate’ when you can say ‘show’? Or ‘prior to’ when you can say ‘before’? When we use non-medical language, we try to choose the shortest and simplest words.
  • We’re consistent with terminology. If we write about an ‘operation’, we don’t call it a ‘scan’ or an ‘investigation’ later in the booklet. We use the same word for the same thing.
  • We avoid idioms. Idioms have a figurative meaning that is different from their literal meaning, so they can be hard to understand, especially if English is your second language. Often these phrases rely on cultural knowledge too. The table below gives some examples:

This table shows words we say and do not say. We do say remember not bear in mind. We do say decide not make up your mind. We do say feel ill or unwell not feel under the weather

Illustrations and infographics

When we’re explaining information, sometimes we need pictures as well as words. This infographic on the benefits of physical activity is one example:

This chart shows things you can do to be active, build strength and improve balance. It suggests walking, gardening, sports, walking up stairs and swimming as being active, and suggests 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. It suggests sitting less, and breaking up long periods in front of the tv or computer by getting up and moving. It suggests building strength two days a week with muscle exercises like lifting weights, doing aerobics or carrying shopping bags. It suggests improving balance with dancing, tai chi or bowling.

Easy read

We have a range of information where simple words and pictures are used alongside each other. This is called easy read. Easy read booklets can be useful to a wide range of people, including people with English as a second language.

This image shows a splay of easy read titles

Other languages and formats

Of course, language isn’t just about the printed word. Some people need or prefer other formats, so we also produce information in:

  • BSL videos
  • audiobooks – to download or listen to online
  • videos with subtitles.

this image says information for everyone and shows symbols for BSL, other languages, audio, large print, braille, pdfs and easyread.

Tell us what you think

Tell us what you think about our information. Can you understand the language? Did you find the illustrations and infographics helpful? Was there anything you didn’t understand? Email with any comments or questions.


To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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