OGDEN's BASIC ENGLISH
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Selected Letters - 2006
Globish -- also, Simple, VOA, Everyman's
I´m attaching an article I´ve found
researching about Basic English. It appears to be an expansion. I´d like to know what you think about it... [This is from an international publisher interested in adding Basic.]
I have had many long e-mails with ___ who runs the
World Language Program. He is a follower of Chomsky rather than Ogden.
I think your position is very correct, no doubt about it.
Perhaps the biggest distinction is that he is attempting to change spelling
with a new alphabet.
Ogden rejected spelling reform as too big a bite for the public to accept.
Let alone a greater step to a new alphabet. His goals were international
communications, not reform of English.
Ogden made Basic both easy and totally transparent with full English.
There is no change and no unlearning in Basic. A person using a new
spelling or new grammar will appear ignorant to society and Ogden makes
the world-wide learner of Basic fully functioning in 850 words. We agreed that Basic is the first step to a world language. Ogden has a
progression for users going on in English that gives 2,000 words and 65 verbs that he considers the threshold of
full English at which point the learner can progress on his own.
Reformers of English are concerned with many other issues to which Ogden and the
Institute are not involved. Ogden recommends and the Institute will
enthusiastically incorporate regularizations of spelling, grammar, and
language features as they occur in mainstream society, but we will not lead
(We have enough trouble with readers who insist on either English or American spelling.)
If your personal interests are spelling reform, we discuss it at
and the conversation with ___ sparked us to look into phonetic spelling
aids to learning English. Existing phonetics seem much to scientifically
complex to be useful for common usage. To see what we think is an
appropriately simple methodology that balances minimal change and
maximum benefit at
Have you dealt at all with Globish? BBC had a special on it, here an article:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/04/21/features/Blume22.php This is Jean-Paul
Nerriere website: http://www.jpn-globish.com/ Much of what he says is classic
Ogden/Richards, plus a bit of Special English/VoA, but he has caught the
attention of the media, in France and beyond. [This is from an international educator who writes articles about Basic English.]
Yes, I have run across Globish and have given it no attention. It is 1500 misspelled words.
The home page is not in G-English, but French; doesn't the language work? An Indian site
recommends a different font. It is one more imitation of Basic. Everybody thinks they
can improve Basic (even me) and wants to put forward their ideal language and not give any credit to the original intellect that presented the idea, the unassuming C.K.Ogden.
Globish contains a 1500 word vocabulary with a new system of spelling. It is not acceptable in normal English usage and gets no additional consideration here. I have devoted time to Essential World English, VOA SE, Everyman’s English, Longmans, and Simple English. Hogden [EWE], in my humble opinion, did not have his act together when he published his book and did not receive enough attention to continue to polish his ideas. Richards [EE] later become totally unrealistic and disappointing
Simple English has much more chance and we embrace it as an option
of intermediate teachers and for specialized users. It is "Basic Plus". Where "Plus" is whatever the individual organizational situation requires as Intermediate English. The foundation
of Basic assures that everything can be expressed. The Plus or Intermediate English, takes
seeral directions. One is a simple continuation of Ogden's general and specific Special words lists, general 100 and specific 50. If one's need is for quality inspection of aircraft being outsourced to Indonesia, then the common language is Basic plus the words uniquely required for communication about aircraft and about quality. A simple and fully compatible extension of BASIC !!! In another example : teaching English to the 12 million illegal Mexican migrants to the USA, would have a very large base of dual Spanish-American "international" words that is able to speed learners
along the path to full English.
The second approach to Plus is to make Basic more English-like.
A key point here is that extending Basic comes after Basic BASIC.
1 . Next-Step Basic.
Ogden has another 500 words plus 50 verbs (I count 80) as the next step. Please note that computerized creation of English cannot detect the difference between noun and verb use of the identically spelled word,
so that the introduction to media of expanded verb usage is automatic.
Richards acts like he invented the idea and calls it Everyman's. Ogden tells us about expanding verbs,
but says that learning the next 500 nouns is more important than removing the learner's continual practice with simple verbs and prepositions, rather than adding a new subject of greater verb-land.) Richards allows all suffixes and irregular forms that will not be recognized by the learner. Ogden never expands his suffix list. We recommend adding a few more when extending beyond basic Basic.
2 . The next variation is VOA Special English which may have been derived from Basic, but not nearly as much as it should have. VOA-SE is NOT suitable for everyday use. Its 1500 words are oriented to international news, not to everyday living. And it and other people's 1500 word vocabularies increase learning time by three quarters. However, VOASE is a valuable source of hearing spoken English and as such their vocabulary can be
considered as another, alternative "next step" towards full English.
3 . A third variation is to make use of the most common (frequent) words. Introduction of "can" and "know" make Basic more fluid. We spent Janaury'06 working on Simple English.
Simple English is undefined, even though the idea had been round for decades. It has been defined roughly as Basic plus high frequency words. My interest was sparked to define the ideas of Simple by way of Simple Wikipedia http://simple.wiki.org . Again, the rules are mentioned in generalities, not specifics. No amount of high sounding words and grand goals can replace a concrete wordlist in discussing a language. Simple English does not have a wordlist. We tried to determine the criteria for such. Simple English is defined (ill-defined) by Simple Wiki as BASIC at the 1500 word level,
plus the most frequent words of full English, plus VOASE if you need it. The grammar is defined (ill-defined) as simple short sentence structure. As I said, Simple English is easy to embrace as being Basic Plus whatever path the teacher/organization chooses to move towards fuller English. Hence our effort to define that Language as an aid to Basic learner to go towards fuller English. Many common words and VOASE words are
going to be picked up naturally, so let the learner use them in their daily living or on the job. Just as verb usage of the Basic nouns gradually comes naturally.
Never the less, the learning progression is Basic BASIC first ! Then Ogden's "next step" Basic.
I find it intriguing that virtually all "improved" Basic are 1,500 words with more verbs. Yet to the student of Ogden, this is just an intermediate level of his path to full English which he says is achieved where he leads us -- at 2,000 words. The proponents of the various improved clones of Basic compare their more comprehensive wordlist with the basic BASIC 850 and not with Ogden’s "next steps" path to 2,000 words. These are totally fraudulent comparisons !!! Ogden's marvel is that he makes the learner totally sufficient in 850 words of learning time ; the learner
is able to participate in English as he desires : international trade, foreign travel, entry into mainstream English speaking society, early immersion into practical progression towards full English, or whatever in the individual's goal(s). Being quicker to learn and to use, people are more likely
to get started and complete learning an international language. The learner is able to either
stop there and communicate in a Basic manner, or to go further if they desire.
See our work at: http://www.basic-english.org/Projects/452.html and the list of links list at the bottom.
Longman's reduced vocabulary for educational use, is worthy, even though it is based on arch-villain Michael West's General Service List,
but at 2,075 root words and 48 affix (10 prefix and 38 suffix), it must be considered, and is advertised as, Intermediate English. It is not for learners, but Longman is for those who have learned Basic. The Longman intermediate English books will be more comfortable to the learner who has completed Basic than
will be full English books, dictionaries, etc.
The concept of making the de facto world language accessible is so obvious that at some point it will take off. Your references suggests
"The language spoken worldwide, by 88 percent of mankind". Fancy wording and salesmanship, rather than specific content, may be the trigger. My purpose in providing the Ogden website was to make his pioneering work available to current and future researchers. That is happening.
Getting back to Globish -- it is just one more theft of Ogden's work. If it does become the name of THE international second language, then we will quietly wink as knowing who the real hero is.
Though several books of Ogden are available in HTML format on the website, I would like
to know whether you can very kindly provide them to me and other visitors as
PDF files. It would be much more convenient to download and read.
If you join the Institute you can take on this
project for the benefit of other readers. The books are summaries, some more complete than others. They are
continually be expanded on the website. A feature of PDF is that is firmly fixed, whereas HTML is self-formating and easy to grow. Our tentative
schedule for PDF is 2007 in preparation for introducing
as part of a book, but this project is more likely to be delayed rather than moved up, without additional volunteer support.
You might try downloading the HTML files into our
recommended Open Office suite (because of our spell checker) and "export" as PDF. This is quite easy, but we do not have the time to edit spacing, page breaks and when we do it, we will be introducing pictures and other features.
I want to compare the Basic 850 word list with other lists of
useful vocabularies. I am thinking about making a data base with the 850
Basic words and then making a data base of about 10 or 12 recommended
lists. Then I could sort these lists and find out how many of the Basic
words appear in the other lists. I imagine that there will be a high
frequency of the basic words appearing in any modern list. If so, this
would be a good argument for using Basic today. The writer teaches ESL to adults in California
See our webpages: Frequent words
and Spreadsheet .
Only the A's, but sufficient to suggest there are no improvements over Basic
without adding greatly to the learning effort. After all, standard English
is the ultimate in being clear. Most improvements have significant shortcomings, whereas Ogden’s Basic has a proven track record. We offer some word processing aids.
We all know that full English can be improved, but
the goal of Basic is to be a QUICK to learn and complete subset of current,
full English, that is perfectly proper, gets the learner immediately into the mainstream
of life or business, and has no unlearning to move to the full.
Also, where I might find a number of words to add the the Basic list?
EVERYbody wants to ADD to the Basic lists. At that
point it is no longer Basic and invalidates all works done in
Basic and negates the international part of Basic wherein people have
learned the language as specified by Ogden. As steps after Basic towards
full English, there are suggestions that can be gathered from other authors. See
outline under Intermediate and Beyond Basic sections.
The Institute hopes to move the wordlist towards the 21st Century
and has created a list of “International“ Internet and Computer words.
Many find the VOA Special English useful. Even though of larger
vocabulary than Basic (hense, longer to learn), it is not a full language, only a news subset.
Yet, it is valuable because news of today is continually offered in voice.
See VOA vs. BE
The most practical approach to moving beyond, after Basic,
might . . . See discussion above about Ogden's "next steps" and Simple English.
Selected Letters - 2000
This page became overwhelming to maintain.
From: Yuzuru Katagiri
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2000
Subj: Dear friends of Basic English,
I have been teaching Basic English in Japanese high school and universities
since 1955. There is a strong group of teachers interested in Basic
English in Japan. Most of them are using I.A. Richards and Christine
Gibson's English Through Pictures, which makes use of 500 words out of the
850 words of Basic English. With John Constable of Cambridge University,
I put together I.A. Richards' writings in a book named "A Semantically
Sequenced Way of Teaching English" in 1993, and the book came out from
Yamaguchi Publishing House in Kyoto, Japan. A number of books on Basic by
Ogden were newly printed by Hokuseido Press in Tokyo.
[ I asked Yuzuru for the addresses. Here is his prompt reply.]
Here are the addresses of the publishers:
Yamaguchi Publishing House The Hokuseido Press
72 Tsukuda-cho 32-4 Honkomagome 3-chome
Ichijoji, Sakyo-ku Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021
Kyoto 606, Japan Japan
[ I wrote to each for availability and price information.
See the texts page. ]
Date: Tue, 13 June 2000
Subject: Basic English
Thank you for the Basic English page.
I have found an interesting article:
"K.E. Garay: "Empires of the Mind? C.K. Ogden, Winston Churchill
and Basic English," Canadian Historical Association Historical
I always thought that "Basic English" could have been more popular,
where it not for this British Empire undertone (especially when
they explain why English is best suited as a world language)...
Anyway, it turns out that Churchill was sponsoring Basic English with
the aim of promoting the Idea stronger cultural ties between
commonwealth countries, i.e. to strengthen British cultural influence.
Quote from the article:
"What would have been the fate of Basic English had Churchill not so
precipitately fallen from office? It is at least possible that
post-imperial Britain might have assumed a very different face and
that, as the Commonwealth fed upon the bones of what once had been,
the mother country might better have been able to preserve the less
tangible but more precious Empire which Churchill had envisioned.
In that Harvard speech of September 1943, having outlined in glowing
terms the possibilities of Basic English, he exhorted his listeners,
"Let us go forward in malice to none and good will to all. Such plans
offer far better prizes than taking away other people's provinces or
land or grinding them down in exploitation. The empires of the future
are the empires of the mind."
Lots of thanks for your page
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 14:16 EST
Subject: Basic English
I have been interested in Basic English for many years and would like to
correspond with others who know about it or about C.K. Ogden or about the
Orthologic Society that promoted it in the thirties. Please reply if you
can help me get in touch. Thanks. Paul Donner, MD
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2000 13:03:46 EST
You may be interested in knowing that I recently made a
purchase of The ABC of Basic English from the below book store.
This book was an original used copy with the original insert
of the 850 basic words. I am satisfied with the purchase.
This is not an endorsement of the store, but for your information only.
From: "Takahiro Kaneko" <
Subject: About Basic English
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000
How do you do.
I am Japanese and very much interested in Basic English.
In Japan, the publisher, Hokuseido Press still has C.K. Ogden's
original works. For example, The ABC of Basic English, The Basic Words,
The General Basic English Dictionary.
Back to: Ogden's Basic English or Basic English Institute.
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Selected E-mail received about Basic English.
Last updated in 2000 and 2006.
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