VOA Special English Word Book


Parts of speech
n. (noun) - a name word
v. (verb) - an action word
ad. (adjective/adverb) - a describing word
prep. (preposition) - a word used to show a relation
pro. (pronoun) - a word used in place of a noun
conj. (conjunction) - a joining word

The Roots of 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.

The Special English Web site

Today, Special English Web site (learningenglish.voanews.com) is an excellent tool to practice and improve your American English. VOA Special English radio programs are broadcast every day of the year on the VOA network. Each broadcast starts with world news, followed by a short feature report and a 15 minute feature. Throughout this site you will find radio scripts from these feature programs and the matching audio file of the text as it was delivered on the radio. The sites also offer both RealAudio and MP3 downloadable audio files that you can save and play over and over again.