I’m not a language expert let’s get that straight up front.

Often when doing a site inspection I may be called upon to explain to people what I am looking for and this can be difficult with people who have English as a second language. I often get puzzled looks from building tenants when I say I’m looking for asbestos…………(what is this?)

Okay  how do I get this across?

“a dangerous material used to make buildings which you can breathe in (deep breath gesture)”

Shake of head “okay”

Now my daughters are trying to learn Japanese at primary school and from the introductory lessons as a parent I attended I found that sometimes symbols not letters are used and combined to make a new word that didn’t previously exist in the language.

 In researching the word asbestos to see if there was a problem conveying the hazard of the material to the Chinese in particular I found this…….










Usage: Common





rock generic term for cotton or kapok



(N) Shimian (place in Sichuan)      / asbestos           / Shimian county in Yaan 雅安[Ya3 an1 , Sichuan      / asbestine      /



 Now I’m not sure about anyone reading this blog but if someone showed me a word combining rock with cotton or kapok together (cottonrock? kapokrock? rockcotton?) that I would be able to determine any hazard or risk from this material and I would certainly not see what the fuss was about if it was in a car, car product or building product my company manufactured.

Maybe our Government needs to go back a step or two in informing or changing the perceptions of our trading partners with information that the material we are trying to stop is not cotton or kapok or perhaps suggest another spelling combining an additional symbol conveying hazard or death into the modernised version of the word.

I don’t know I’m not a linguist……..