To become expert in some forms of knowledge and behavior no teaching is needed; in others a teacher may be a help for the early stages; in other, again, the learner is dependent on the teacher till his education is almost complete.
Language-learning comes under all three heads; but because the business of living and making a living takes up so much time in later years, it is very frequently limited to the school -- where the sort of knowledge and behavior which seems most necessary to the organization of society, such as the reading and writing of one or more languages, is forced on the young. In schools we are up against special conditions, among which the mind and the training of the teacher are not less important than the stage of development of the learner, the size of the group in which he is a unit, and the tests by which knowledge is judged. The tendency is or schools to go at whatever rate may be necessary to let the slowest keep up with the rest; but where the learner is in control, and is clear about his purpose from the start, the process may be much quicker.
Learners of Basic, old and young, will have no need for schools and teachers of any sort if they have the necessary books. This is true even of those languages in which there is still no special guide to Basic.
At the end of 1939 there were such guides, and one or more of the Basic books, in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Czech, Polish, Danish, Swedish, Latvian, and a number of other languages. In The Basic Words are the French and German words for all the senses of the 850, and the ABC and Basic Step by Step are now being printed in French, German, and Spanish. [Basic being only a selection from normal English, the learner who has no other guide will be able to put the words into his natural language with the help of any word-book. He will then have no trouble in reading Basic Step by Step, where they are grouped for learning purposes in the simplest possible way.]
It is a good idea to get the senses of the 850 words for reading purposes before going on to talking or writing. With this general knowledge of the system, the private learner will be able to give special attention later to those parts of it which are the most interest to him -- for example, business, news, science, or a journey to England or America. It is a waste of time for those who are chiefly interested in writing business letters or in reading and writing science, to give the same amount of thought to the sounds as if they were starting on a journey, where talking would be a pleasure.
For reading Basic, it is possible to take 30 words an hour after the first two or three steps. Some learners go much quicker than this (between 50 and 100), even without the use of the story form as a help to the sense. In Basic Step by Step and The Basic Way to English, the words in the earlier steps come in over and over again, where the sense of new words is being made clear, and in reading (though not in writing) the form-changes almost take care of themselves. After working then, for between 24 and 30 ours, or say, four hours a day over a week, the back of the system will have been broken.
Anyone who is learning a strange language seriously is ready to give it two hours a day for a month, and of the 60 hours 30 will be free for a serious start in writing and talking. Experience makes it quite certain that this is no theory, but a statement supported by solid fact. So even those who are working all day for a living, and have to go to bed before eleven to be up by seven, may get control of this international language of the future, without a teacher, by taking out their books from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. every night for one month.
For talking, it is best to get by heart a number of statements, and a story or two, as early as possible, and to say them quickly enough to keep in the right rhythm those 12 words which are only weighted for some special reason. [A, the, and, of, for, from, to than, is, some, have, that.]
The directions generally given for getting a natural English rhythm are so complex that it might take years to get the secret; and much time may be wasted in the attempt. Here again, however, Basic has something new to say, though this is not the place to say it in detail. It will be enough to give those who are interested some idea of the lines on which an answer to the question "What is English rhythm?" may be framed -- and of the reasons which make Basic the best guide to the more complex developments of the English language in its complete form.
In an English of 10,000 words -- or even 2,000 -- rules for what little is regular are not much help; and when the teaching of English has no special relation to its structure, or to the sense and purpose of every unit in that structure, the learning of unnecessary tricks gives the memory more than enough to do even without the addition of the current theories of rhythm. In Basic, the number of words is so small, and their behavior so straightforward, that rules are possible which would have little value, as such, for any other selection from the English language.
To get a natural effect, force or weight has to be out on the right words for the sense, and on the right division of the word for the sound. Every English word with more than one sound-division (let-ter, di-vi-sion) is weighted on one or other of these – by force of breath or muscle. So first we have to give a rule for this.
Only 337 of the 850 have more than one division, and the Rule is: The weight is on the part before the last.
No less than 254 or the 337 are covered by this rule; and here are examples from every group (of two, three, and four divisions):
All but 22 or the rest come under three simple heads; and the 22 which might give trouble take less than half a minute to record.
The first business of the learner is clearly to get the sounds of the words right. If the weight is not on the right part, the effect may be quite as unnatural as an error the sound itself. But in addition to this there are two rules for weighting words when they are put together in statements. It is not enough to say the words one after another like a word-list, because (a) any word may be given special force to make the sense clearer, and (b) some very frequent little words are generally given much less force than is normal. So the Rules for weighting words in statements, to get nearer to the English way of talking, are:
Almost every statement of 10 words may be said in at least 10 different ways; and the effect of the addition of force is chiefly to make the weighted word louder. Naturally, more than one word in a statement may be marked out in this way, but one will be enough to give quite an 'English rhythm' to any statement. Certain ups and downs of the voice will probably be part of the effect, but we may let these changes take care of themselves as long as they are not the outcome of a sort of song-rhythm based on the special behavior of some other languages. Such song-rhythms have to be watched and taken out if they are seen to be very strong; but there are no rules for English 'song' which are important enough to be forced on the learner's attention -- at any rate at the early stages.
Learners who have no English or American friends will get the natural rate from the short-wave radio; and when Basic is regularly used for news by short-wave stations in forward-looking countries, and for international talking pictures, there will be a new chance of learning the language of the future without a teacher.
The selection of international words which have so far been listed for use with the Basic system is at present small, but a further expansion of its range, with the authority of an International Radio Committee, may be looked for in the near future. The 50 about which experts have come to a decision are printed in The Basic Words.
Though some of these will come to the attention of the reader when he makes a start on the Basic books, there is not reason for making them a part of the learning system in the earlier stages. They have no place, for example, in The Basic Way, books I-IV. Even less will his memory be troubled by the further 50 which may be used with care in different sorts of material for testing reactions.
For writing, make a start by putting down the events of the day in a book, noting at the same time any uses which are markedly different from those in your natural language. Turning pages of your language into Basic is not so good for a start, because you will be giving attention to words, which may have no parallel form in Basic, and not to the things, thoughts, and feelings about which you are writing. These things, thoughts, and feelings are covered in Basic, and if your mind is on them you will be certain of what you are saying and will see better how to say it simply and clearly.
The tendency to let our thoughts be controlled by words is very deeply rooted, and a month with Basic is far the best way of training the mind to put up a fight against it. When we have to do without a word, we frequently become conscious for the first time of what we were saying with it. And sometimes we see that we were saying nothing -- or nothing for which a special word was needed. So here is the great value of Basic for those who come to it with a knowledge of normal English.
It might seem at first as if they were being requested to put 10,000 or 20,000 words out of their minds for no better reason than that part of their language had become an international instrument. That, it is true, would be a good reason for making use of a smaller number of words when talking internationally, in the hope that most of them would be Basic; and on this view, much may be done for the more general exchange of ideas. The addition of words to a telegram does not necessarily make it clear here, and in the same way the Basic part of what is said with the help of words outside the 80 might be clear enough for the exchange desired. Why, then, take the trouble to get the Basic right, or nearer to the rules? The answer is that, as we have seen in Part 4, the training is of great value in itself, and is very little trouble if started in the right way. There is no question for the Englishman or American of learning the list by heart. He will be comforted to see that most of the words on which his normal talk is based are there. Let these be marked; and at the same time it will be seen that all the rest are very common -- even those, from the last 50, which make the connection with science and are not needed by anyone under 14. He will quickly become conscious that the 100 words which are representative of 'prepositions', 'pronouns', 'conjunctions', 'adverbs', and so on, give him all the framework which is necessary.
But there are certain very common words which are not in the Basic list, and he will make a note of these and of the reasons why they are not there. Some, he will see, are covered by the name of acts and directions, which he will take through their tricks (every operation in turn with every direction) till he has listed one or two hundred of the 'verbs' whose place is taken by them. To get a clear picture of the system at this stage he will be wise to go all through the ABC with care, taking at least two or three hours on the details and answering for himself the harder test questions at the end of every part.
A further step is to put ten lines from a newspaper roughly into Basic, noting which words were in Basic at the start, and underlining any word which will not go straight across into the simpler form of writing. By then turning to these underlined words in The Basic Dictionary for suggestions, he will be able to make the necessary changes. After than, things will go more quickly, and one by one his doubts and questions will be answered. The system is working, but it is a good idea to see it working smoothly in some book which has the full English on one page and the Basic opposite line by line.
A good example of this is International Talks, by Mr. Wickham Steed. Mr. Steed was for a long time in control of The Times, and his English is clear and straightforward. Reading the Basic first is not much help, but take Mr. Steed line by line with the opposite page covered over, turning to it only when a decision has to be made and there is a doubt as to how the Basic might go. Three or four pages will be enough to give a feeling of the Basic way of saying things.
At this point we may say to the learner; You now have a working knowledge of the structure and the units of the system -- enough to make a test of where you are still going wrong. So now take anything you are reading, 1,000 words form the morning paper, for example, and put a line under every word which seems to you to be Basic. Then go through them with the Basic list, writing down every word about which you were wrong. Do the same the day after with the words which are not Basic, again making a detailed comparison with the list. If you make any error twice at this stage, put the word in a special list. This list -- possibly of not more than ten or twelve -- is a guide to your special tendencies (others would make different errors); and after a little more work with these words they will give you no further trouble. You will be stopping from time to time over a new word, but after a week you will be writing freely, and only looking at the printed list itself when you get in a hole.
When you go down the street or in trains, you will have a chance of putting advertisements and other sign into Basic; and experience in talking may be got from an attempt to keep up with the radio news as if you had a Basic friend from China or the Hebrides in the room, and you are giving an account in clearer language of what has been said. And have a look at Brighter Basic, pages 28-44, to see if any of the words which do not come readily to your mind are fixed in the sayings made up of words starting with the same letter as a help to the memory. Take note of the way the -er, -ing, and -ed endings are used, of the possible use of un- before the 50 names of qualities which take it, and of the higher and lower limits from the special uses which have to be made clear to those whose natural language is not English.
The uses of more than 95% of the words are those which common sense would give them on first seeing them in the list. The only question is how far to go with possible expansions if you are to be clear to a Basic learner, and the rules on this point are based on the test of long experience. Every expansion in Basic has some connection with the root sense, but about 50 words have second sense in normal English needing special attention. Half of these are kept in Basic to make the system complete, though for some of them different words, would be necessary in most languages; the other half are not used because they give so much trouble to learners and the second sense is covered by other Basic words. A stick, for example, being a bit of wood clearly has not connection with getting stamps fixed on envelopes; lead as a substance, does not give us the 'leader ' of a group, and 'backing' horses is clearly one step farther from the back of anything than is necessary in a language which naturally "puts money on" these animals. On the other hand, you would be safe in using arms as 'weapons', a blow for a 'set back', carriage for 'transport charges', change for 'money change', common for 'vulgar', company for 'companionship', crying for 'weeping', dear for 'beloved', ice for 'ice cream', tastefor 'good taste', and waiter for the 'garcon' who is waiting on you in a restaurant.
Here, however, are 20 words which writers with a knowledge of English frequently take in wrong senses. Still is not used for 'quiet' or 'even', even for 'level', that for 'who' and 'which', or will for anything but future time. Among the names of things, a ball is not a dance, a balance scales, or a board a committee; a box has no connection with a fight, or a fly with airplanes; hard does not give us 'hardly', light is not to be used for weight, or measure of laws, or net of prices; a ring has nothing to do with a bell, or a scale with a fish, a start is not a jump, a match is not a competition, base is not bad, and a table is not a list. Of the names of qualities, present is no help in giving.
And here are 20 which do more than they might be given credit for, so that there is a true stretch for any learner whose language makes use of a different word for the second sense, though the connection is clear enough. They are all so common that even the addition of a different word would not make them unnecessary. Chest has an expansion to chest, for clothing, fall is the fall of the year, fire is gun-fire, interest to interest on money, join to joiner (in wood working), key to music key, meal to meal from grain, nail to finger-nail, note to note for music, plane to the wing of an airplane, rest to the rest (what is over), right to the opposite of wrong, shade to shades of the dead, sign to the signing letter, spring to the spring months and water springs, stage to the theater stage, and stamp to postage stamp. And when the endings -er, -ing, -ed are used with train, unit, and watch the senses of training, uniting, and watching almost put them in a group by themselves.
With these examples, covering 99% of what is not regular, and noting he suggestions in this book, you may go straight forward with the word-list and the short rules given on the bit of notepaper. Thousands have done so, and have sent us their work. If you put a short example of your Basic in the post, to the Orthological Institute, keeping a copy, we will make suggestions and give you any help in our power.