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Special English is a controlled version of the English language first used on October 19, 1959, and still employed by the United States broadcasting service Voice of America in daily broadcasts. The news is read slowly, using a limited vocabulary (about 1500 words[1]) and simplified grammar. There is a short pause between adjacent words so that word boundaries are easily discerned. The intended audience of Special English are people who have studied English in school, but do not speak it in daily usage. Wordlists and guidelines for grammar and speech are provided at the Voice of America website.[2]



For example, a December 12, 2002, script describes diabetes in this manner:[3]

"The World Health Organization estimates that as many as one-hundred-twenty-million people have the disease diabetes. Diabetes is the name for several diseases with one thing in common: there is too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood. The disease develops when the body does not produce enough insulin or produces no insulin. Or the disease develops when the body cannot use insulin."

Another script from April 4, 2004, talks about the Rolling Stones:[4]

"The popularity of the Beatles led the way for more rock and roll bands from England to become popular in America. The Rolling Stones was the most important of these bands. The Rolling Stones is one of the few groups from the nineteen-sixties that is still performing and recording today. In nineteen sixty-five, the group recorded one of its most famous songs, 'Satisfaction'."

For those listeners whose own language is not English, it not only provides clear and simple news and information, but also helps them improve their use of American English. In some countries such as the People's Republic of China, Special English is increasingly popular for junior and intermediate English learners.

The BBC and China Radio International have both used the name "Special English" for their slow speed English broadcasts, but they do not appear to have applied the full methodology of the VoA original.

Specialized English

Specialized English is a dialect of Special English developed initially by Feba Radio and now used internationally in the Spotlight radio program produced by Feba Radio, Words of Hope and The Back to God Hour. The same parameters apply as for Special English—slow speed, short sentences and restricted vocabulary. The vocabulary (word list) is over 90% identical to that of VoA Special English.

See also


  1. ^ [1] Wordlist at VOA
  2. ^ [2] Special English at VOA
  3. ^ [3]VOA broadcast transcript 2 December 2002
  4. ^ [4]VOA broadcast transcript 4 April 2004

External links


Simple English

Special English is a simple form of the English language. It is used by a public radio station called Voice of America, run by the United States government in Special English programs every day. Its news and feature programs are read more slowly than usual, using fewer English words and simple grammar.

The contents of Simple English programs are much easier to understand. Simple English is clearer and simpler, and it uses shorter sentences. It can also help someone whose English is weak to improve his or her English. In some countries, for example China, Special English is popular among people learning English.

Special English was first used on October 19, 1959.

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