BASIC ENGLISH: International Second Language
Section Two, Part One
The System in Detail
The ABC of Basic English
The Basic Words
(a detailed account of their uses)
The ABC of Basic English
On Learning the Basic Words
This account is designed as a simple guide in three stages (A, B, and C), covering all the chief points in Basic English.
In some ways it is different from other accounts of language, because the learner has, at the start, on one page, almost all the material which will ever be needed.
The complete word-list takes about a quarter of an hour on the records (see the Book List at the end of this book)
which makes it possible to get a rough idea of the sense of anything said or printed in Basic English after only one week's work; and a little time given to the examples in Section Three of this book, or taken from the Book List at the end, will do the rest.
Even if you have a good knowledge of normal English, or have made a start with some other system, it is a good thing to put yourself first of all in the position of someone who is taking his very first step.
But if what is said seems far more simple than is necessary, keep in mind the fact that what comes later will sometimes be dependent on statements made in these early pages.
The chief business of the learner, then, is to get a good knowledge of the words and their senses, with the help of the records (and of signs and pictures), and the nearest words in his natural tongue.
At the same time, by putting every word into some simple statement at an early stage, he will get an idea of its natural uses for talking and writing.
With most languages two or three years may be necessary to get a knowledge of 5,000 words; and every new word up to 10,000 may still have its special tricks, which will only be overcome by slow and bitter experience. In Basic English, the end of the work is in view all the time.
The learning of the system may best be done in three stages:
1. The 850 words and their order.
2. Expansions of the words in form and sense.
3. Special uses of the words, and their use for special purposes.
The number of words in the Basic list is so small that it is possible to go through them all in fifteen minutes every day before any other work is done, till their sounds are quite clear and their simple senses are fixed in the memory.
A very quick learner, with special training, might get 100 words in an hour.
A good learner, with a knowledge of more than one language, may get 50 in an hour.
A normal learner whose natural language is not unlike English will get 30--at least after the earlier stages.
A learner who takes an hour to get only 20 words will probably have a bad memory for words, or will be one whose natural language is very different in structure from Basic English.
A normal learner, who is able to take two hours every day for the work, will be wise to give one of these hours to the sounds and simple senses of the words.
He will then get the complete list in a month (or if he makes it two hours, he will probably get through this part of the work in two weeks). The second hour every day would then be free for putting the words together, and learning everything which is important about Word-order.
But after a very short time, it is a good idea to make a small selection of words, so as to have enough for some simple statements; and by the time you come to the end of A, you will be able to make five different sorts of simple statements:
1. A word is a sign (page 132).
2. Words give (do not give) clear signs (page 138).
3. Words will give signs to men (page 137).
4. Words will give signs to men clearly (page 140).
5. Stop ! Please give new rules to the quick boys now (pages 150-51).
This ABC and The Basic Words give the teacher with some knowledge of English everything needed for building up further material; but guides in a number of other languages, and in forms designed by experts in different systems, are now in print.
In The Basic Dictionary the 7,500 commonest words of normal English are put into Basic -- which makes it possible to do the same for any other language in the near future; and in Basic by Examples there are 120 pages of simple examples.
A list of the other books to be used in connection with the ABC is given on the last pages [see Book List, at the end]; and naturally it is a good idea to make a start with some sort of story or general reading-material as early as possible.
This book is all in Basic English, but in the forms of it designed for use in other countries it has been put into the learner's language and only those words (here generally in italics)
to which he has to give attention at the different stages, and the statements needed as examples, are kept in Basic.
But when the learner gets to the end (that is to say, after giving about a week to A, a week to B, and an hour to C ) he will be in a position to go through the complete story by himself in its Basic English form -- as an example of the way in which the words may be put together.
So that the First Step may be of value to the very young in addition to its more general interest, the words in the examples in this part are chiefly such as are commonly used before six years old; from these the teacher will be able to make a simple selection.