Monday, October 19, 2009

50th Anniversary of VOA Special English

Happy Birthday, VOA Special English!

What is VOA Special English?

On October 19, 1959, the Voice of America broadcast the first Special English program. It was an experiment. The goal was to communicate by radio in clear and simple English with people whose native language was not English. Special English programs quickly became some of the most popular on VOA. They still are. Special English continues to communicate with people who are not fluent in English. Over the years, its role has expanded. It helps people learn American English while they learn about American life and stay informed about world news and developments in science. It provides listeners with information they cannot find elsewhere.

Three Elements Make Special English Unique

  • It has a core vocabulary of 1500 words. Most are simple words that describe objects, actions or emotions. Some words are more difficult. They are used for reporting world events and describing discoveries in medicine and science.
  • Special English writers use short, simple sentences that contain only one idea. They use active voice. They do not use idioms.
  • Special English broadcasters read at a slower pace, about two-thirds the speed of standard English. This helps people learning English hear each word clearly. It also helps people who are fluent English speakers understand complex subjects.

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