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So, what's up with this? What's the goal of this wiki, precisely? Is it for use mainly, or only, by adult learners of English? Maybe we could discuss this on Wikipedia-L. --Larry Sanger ---

Simplified English is essentially the same as having an 'executive summary' of 'long' articles in basic English listed at the head of a Wikipedia article.

No. It involves changing the vocabulary and grammar. Condensing is possible but not necessary.

It is a good thing. Encyclopedias are much to space constrained --> need for terse sentences with complex words.

I vote for 'subject verb object' sentence structure.

No, while SVO structure may be useful, it is rather more complex than that.

Larry: I agree, this should be discussed on the list.


Now, I feel that I'm qualified to suggest _why_ this was started, since I was the one who asked for it. (Also, I'm an English teacher holding an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language.) Here is the original email to Jason Richey:

> > My name is Jeff Nelson; I'm an English teacher and technologist > > currently residing in the Middle East. I want to help start a section > > of the Wikipedia for beginners in English. It could start out with > > simplified versions of existing articles, using only the 1000 or so > > most common words in English.

In short, I wanted wikipedia articles that could be useful for my own students, whose reading ability is at the beginning to intermediate level. (Getting them to read articles from the main wikipedia was a disaster.)

Since then I realized a couple of things: 1. It would be useful to verify (without too much trouble) how hard a text really is. 2. We needed to either define a target level or make a way of indexing texts by difficulty, or both.

Therefore, I started doing research on freely-available resources about textual difficulty, which is most of what you see on the site right now. (Sorry, it's still a bit crude; when I have time I'll polish it up.)

There are recognized standards defining "beginner," "intermediate," etc. which I'm trying to locate.

--Jeff Nelson


You could start by using simplified English on your title page.


A suggestion for your consideration. We could first focus on completing a draft dictionary of the thousand words ... say get to 500 before article writing begins. Then articles could be requird to have multiple words or phrases in the title. This would allow every word to be clickable to the dictionary ... potentially of great assistance to beginning readers. This may require a software modification to resolve the clicking on article titles vs. words in the titles but I do not think it impossible. This project would be extremely useful to me in some other projects that I have in mind. Interesting good idea! user:mirwin


Entries on versions of reformed and modified English itself would help to train the contributors, whereupon the following set of steps could happen:

  1. bootstrap the project using w:Basic English plus the w:E-Prime "become", "remains", "equals", and ban "to be" from the very beginning, everywhere - that's about 1000 words - those words can be used to define the other 1000 words required to define all English w:idioms (about 4000 of them) using limited senses of the 2000 words. At that point, the project consists of a w:Basic English and w:E-Prime dictionary, the entries include many idioms, e.g. "make good" and explain where asymmetric use, i.e. "make bad" is wrong.
  2. find the most popular wikipedia items and rewrite them entirely in this 2000-word English, avoiding use of the idioms except where absolutely necessary. At this point contributors are relatively skilled at avoiding "to be", and the states of being implied by w:E-Prime.
  3. move on to the most controversial items likely to pop up in discourse among people with little or no English, and cover mathematical topics fully since they rely on a language (math itself) that won't depend on English vocabulary much at all (no reason to believe that an English beginner is a math beginner, that's a separate scale) - this will create a core group of contributors who are dedicated to w:consensus process, not stupid ideological rhetoric (like the "NPOV as God, worship or be called troll" crowd over at the regular wiki)
  4. solicit help from NGOs and institutions that know a lot about working with non-native English speakers in stressful situations, get their help at this later stage to build up articles on practical matters, e.g. splinting a broken arm, keeping a plasma fridge running, planting food crops, how a well works - ultimately, get a few of these on editorial board and get them using the simple wikipedia as their standard reference and teaching guide for non-native speakers.

Just a few comments to those points hinted above

1. It would indeed be very useful to properly define the level in english of the aimed readers. I presume the 1000 words are those we are able to understand, rather than use ourselves. Huge difference. A 1000 words to understand a language is really not much, and probably do not include the "technical" words (job related) that we know, but do not use in everyday life. Indexing texts by level of difficulty would be great, probably better that just aiming a level of understanding.

2. Are the aimed readers rather educated in their own country or not ? I would rather say they are, for they are more likely to be the ones spending time flipping through an encyclopedia. Also, more likely to be the ones using internet. Am I being wrong here ? Is the aim only to support teaching classes, or is it also intended to support knowledge hunger on a more personal basis ?

3. If 2 is true, I'd say that the readers will stick to the encyclopedia because they can find there information they don't find in their own language, ie info dealing with items they don't use, questions their fellowmen don't tackled, concepts not given consideration, or because they can find other points of view on an specific issue (hum, what is a cheerio, what are the specificities of a condo, why do you play baseball, what is mormon religion, voting issues in english-speaking countries, creationism vs evolutionism...).

If !2, splinting a broken arm might be of interest. It sounds a bit like a technical specification manual though.

4. I am no linguist at all, and imagine teaching english to people of very different primary languages is a challenge. Similar sentence structures, common roots certainly make a big difference compared to asian or arabic languages. For my compatriots, the biggest issue is maybe the phrasal verbs. To take, to put, to carry, to watch, to look...no ? Okay, our challenge is to be able to remember the subtle or less subtle differences between take aback, take after, take apart, take away, take down, take in, take off, take out, take over, take to and take up. Need to avoid these in the encyclopedia, or... to add them in the dictionary with a full load of examples. Another point is the auxiliary modal verbs (will/would, shall/should, can/could, may/might, must/had to...). And maybe another painful hit : irregular verbs (to begin, I began, begun; to slay, I slew, slain). All these, we consider more of a problem than the average number of words in a sentence :)

5. Repetition. Is often said to be the key for understanding. It is useless, however, to repeat the exact same piece of sentence in two following sentences, in order to avoid using a linkword or coordinating/subordinating conjonctions. If the sentence "looks" easy to understand, better try an easy linkword. The latter often having fine differences, maybe it would be sound to stick to a handful of basic ones. I remember I learn very early on a few of these at school, moreover, therefore, although, either...or, more...than. I certainly was able to understand them before I had 1000 words of english, and it certainly improved the clarity of the text. If the sentence "looks" tough to understand, then the writer could try to repeat the same idea with different words instead.

6. Mathematics. Or physics. Or chemistry. Yeah sure, a hard core. But, I thought we were using a common language... until I followed civil engineering classes, and not only suffered from different units, but also discovered we were not using the same abbreviations and different "cabalistic" signs. Computer science might well be the only field with common languages, build by english native speakers, and used all over the world.


It looks like the simplified English Wiki hasn't been touched in months. I am going to try rewriting the main page and maybe adding others. Feel free to participate. -Quintessent


Are there any guidelines for using this? The main Wikipedia has documented various rules and style guidelines that editors should adhere to. I think we need the same thing here. Angela, May 29 2003.

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