Why Simple English?
It is not unusual, after a presentation, for us to get questions about what we do and why we do it? Why English? Why simple English? Here is part of the answer.
In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released an interactive, online map pinpointing the vast array of languages spoken in homes across the nation. Along with the map, they published a detailed report on rates of English proficiency and the growing number of speakers of other languages.
What will surprise some people who have used the map is the realization that many people who live in North America and can function at some level in English, do not speak English at home. About 62 million people living in the United States speak a language other than English when they are with their families. Seventeen percent of Canadians speak a language other than French or English (Canada’s official languages) at home.
With the large immigrant population from Latin America, most people assume that Spanish accounts for the majority of these speakers in the U.S., But the statistics show that Spanish speakers account for only 38% of persons who speak another language at home. In addition to English and Spanish, there were six languages in 2011 spoken at home by at least 1 million people: Chinese (2.9 million), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), German (1.1 million) and Korean (1.1 million).
While the numbers of these speakers of English as an additional language who live in North America are significant, they are small compared to the number of people who are learning English globally. According to the British Council, there are more than 1.5 billion English-language learners worldwide.
Add to this, the studies which show that the adult immigrant living in North America more than ten years rarely achieve a functional vocabulary of more than 10,000 words. The average is less than 5,000 words. (The vocabulary of a native English speaker reaches 10,000 between ages 8 to 10). The student of English in a non-English speaking country will rarely reach 4,000 words in their receptive vocabulary, with the 2,000 most used English words making up the core of the vocabulary that they can use.
Clear and Simple Media writes with this broad audience in mind. We use a controlled English style with a reduced vocabulary set (around 2,400 words) and limited grammar to make what we write readable to the largest number of English readers. We record stories using the same simplified style for those whose spoken English is much better than their ability to read. This limited English style makes translation much more straightforward. That has resulted in the production of 45 different language translations.
Our goal is to help people read the Bible and help them understand what they read. So, we write books and tell stories in simple English. We do this because we believe that God uses his word, clearly understood, to change people’s lives.