Are You Speaking in a Language Your Audience Can Understand?

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams writes about his flight home from Haiti on a US Air Force C-17 earlier this week. The flight was carrying Haitian evacuees en route to temporary housing at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, and Williams noted that they weren’t able to understand the announcements being made in English:

I suggested to the media liaison on board that the Crew Chief of the flight find a volunteer to make a few announcements in Creole. It was apparent to me that our guests were not paying attention to the announcements and were missing out on vital information. In what I hope becomes an act of Air Force policy, we witnessed an amazing change: the passengers who had been asleep or disinterested during the announcements suddenly came to attention when they heard their native tongue being spoken to them, with great courtesy from a young father of a beautiful little girl on board. He was thrust into the “announcer” role and did superbly well.

On Wednesday, Williams wrote that a high-ranking Air Force official let him know that Creole-language announcements had been made standard procedure on all evacuation flights:

Since the Air Force can’t find Creole-speaking personnel on short notice to be on board every rescue flight, the policy from now on will be to do what we did on our flight: ask for a volunteer from among the evacuees to make announcements and answer any questions. The senior official was effusive in his thanks–which made me very glad I had posted what I did.

U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Dyjak

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