Voice of America Special English and Ogden's Basic English are similar languages. I had hoped to find even greater commonality. Granted this is preliminary, but comparing the "A, B, + Cs" only, Special English has fewer words, 310 vs. 353; we find about a 47% overlap of SpE with BE and with another 7% of variations on the same word - with VOA adding the verb form which Basic avoids: agree vs. agreement. About 43% of Basic words are included in the Special English word list.


The Special English definitions provided by VOA are often Basic English expressions: ancient is defined as "very old; long ago". All four defining words are in both the SE and BE vocabularies such one wonders why introduce the more complex and limited word when simpler and more generally useful words are already there.

VOA SE is expected to have more finely tuned expressions for international news: activist, administration, ambassador, anarchy, appeal, appoint, approve, ballot, bill, bomb, boycott, cabinet, campaign, candidate, capitalism, ceasefire, chairman, civilian, coalition, compromise, condemn, conference, conflict, Congress, conservative, constitution, crisis, curfew.; and words of more modern interest such as astronaut, astronomy, atmosphere, and computer. Left out of SE are words required by commerce: account, adjustment, advertisement, bankrupt, consignment; and of science and industry: acid, angle, aluminum, apparatus, arch, argument, automatic, blade, brass. brick, copper, curve. The introduction to Basic English often begins with the parts of the body including: arm, ankle, abdomen, chest; on which SE is silent. Some Special English words are worthy updates to Basic: carriage becomes car, autobus becomes bus.


Special English is a specialized version of simplified English with a bend towards international news and with roots in Basic English, but with almost half of its words specifically for international news. This differs from Ogden's concept of Basic English with only about 15% of the language devoted to specialty areas. We find VOA SE as a specialty vocabulary with just enough general Basic English words to make it understandable and it is not as a general purpose language.

VOA Special English, with the slower delivery and enunciation, is still a fine means to recognize and pronounce good English. And also learn some international news words of likely interest.