PART I. Preface, Contents
It is clear that the problem of a Universal language would be solved if it were possible to say all that we normally say with no more words than can fit on a sheet of notepaper. The fact, therefore, that it is possible to say almost everything we normally desire to say with 850 words, makes Basic English something more than a mere educational experiment. Eight hundred fifty words are sufficient for ordinary communication in idiomatic English.
Six hundred words form a first stage a which a wide range of simple matter can be provided. By the addition of 100 words required for any general field (science, trade) and 50 for any particular specialty, a total of 1,000 enables any meeting or publication to achieve internationalism.
With this vocabulary, the style and brevity has no literary pretensions, but is clear and precise. Below the minimum 600, only Pidgin English or traveler's enquiries can emerge. Above the 1,000 maximum, we are at the level of standardizing English. Normal vocabulary hovers between the alleged 300 words of the Somersetshire farmer and the 12,000 of the average undergraduate. Most are shades of meaning that are not strictly necessary.
The 850 words can be learned in 40 hours spent during a month by a speaker of a European romance or Germanic language. Chapter 1.
2. The System.
( The grammar of Basic is similar to standard English except the rules fill one chapter rather than a whole book. There are fewer exceptions. ) Chapter 2.
3. Grammatical Principles.
Six hundred of the 850 words are nouns which are assisted by the pictorial method. ( This chapter is full of examples and of suggestions for expansion in various cases. Example of seven years to learn polished English, seven months to learn Esperanto, and one month to learn Basic. ) Chapter 3.
PART II. A Short Guide to Basic English
1. What is Basic English?
Basic English is an attempt to give everyone a second, or international language, which will take as little of the learner's time as possible.
It is a system in which everything may be said for all the purposes of everyday existence. To the eye and ear it will not seem in any way different from normal English.
It is the business of all internationally-minded persons to make Basic English part of the system of education in every country, so that there may be more communication, less chance of war, and less learning of languages -- which after all, for most of us, is a very unnecessary waste of time. Chapter 1.
2. Basic as an International Language.
It is clear to most persons with a knowledge of history and an interest in international organization that one of the chief needs of Europe is fifty more dead languages. Every year the Earth is getting smaller, through the discoveries of Science; but there are still more than 1,500 languages in use in different countries which the radio, telephone, and advertisement in all its forms have suddenly put in touch with one another. Chapter 2.
3. How the 850 Words Do Their Work.
The greater part of the words in use are shorthand for other words. Most common words are colored by our feelings, the words express judgment of our feelings in addition to their straight forward sense. It is generally possible to get to the factual level without much trouble.
By putting the word to be tested in relationship with other possible words, questions can be framed in the form, "What word takes the place of the word in the middle in this connection?" Puppy is a Dog and time, young. Bitch is a Dog and sex, female. There are thirty lines for thirty sorts of questions.
Questions of what a word will do for us has little relation to the number of times it is used in newspapers or letters.
The number of 850 was found with 600 names of things, 150 are names of qualities, and the last 100 are the words which put the others into operation and make them do their work in statements.
But the chief reason why it is possible to do so much with the limited word-list is because Basic has been able so completely to do without 'verbs.' Chapter 3.
4. Basic as an Instrument of Thought
The idea that because our thought is based on language, and because it is important for our thought to be clear, a great respect for form might be a help in the development of our minds. The use of Basic is an insurance that the words most necessary to the structure will be worked in frequently enough for the learner to get them completely under control so that even the most complex ideas may come before the mind as parts of a system and not as fictions of air. Chapter 4.
5. The Learning of Basic
Learners of Basic, old and young, will have no need for schools and teachers of any sort if they have the necessary books. It is good to get the senses of the 850 words for reading purposes before going on to talking and writing. Working four hours a day over a week, the back of the system will have been broken; or two hours a day for a month will give control. (Tips for speech and the value of radio. Tips for writing and the value of a diary of thoughts, rather than translating words. Tips for English speakers include marking up newspapers. ) Chapter 5.
6. The Teaching of Basic
Too much attention is given to fixed forms of words, certainly the dead weight of unnecessary works, chiefly 'verbs' whose behavior is not regular. The memory is overtaxed. A start may be made with The Basic Way to English , in which the 850 words are covered in four language books with pictures on every page. The list itself will be kept before the learner till the sounds and senses are clear and every word has been marked off in connection with the group in which it was first given. The thought to keep in mind is that 850 words come before 851. Chapter 6.
7. Basic for Science
( Several examples of scientific jargon made understandable in Basic English.)
Is the Siamese medical man to get his training in the language of his country or in the language of science? If he gives five years to English and them comes to Europe or America, his time will be wasted on another unnecessary list of 20,000 words. It is not surprising then that education authorities are turning to Basic not only for the training of the expert but for giving the general public an account of complex ideas in the simplest possible form. With the help of Basic such reports may be made simple without becoming bad science. Chapter 7.
8. Basic for Business
English is one of the international languages for trade, which is dependent on
peace and common sense for its increase, so Basic as a complete second language
for all purposes has a special value for business men.
( Examples of flowery language converted to straight forward business language.) Chapter 8.
9. Sixteen Years
Ogden describes the early acceptance of Basic. He did much work in the Orient and describes the use in Japan -- immediately prior to WW2. Several countries use Basic texts for the study of English. Chapter 9.
10. The Future
What makes a nation is a common language and experience. What will make men international will be a common language. The earth is getting smaller through the discoveries of Science, and Media is now putting Babel into the houses of all. One great step forward would be news every hour in a common language. Five minutes would be enough to give everyone the feeling that this little earth was pulling itself together. That language would quickly become a part of everyday experience. It would be possible for media to be produced in any country for every country. Chapter 10.