One of the things that fascinates me about Shortwave (see my last post) is the amount of worldwide propaganda floating around out there from various sources. Since shortwave radio reaches much, much longer distances than standard AM/FM radio, it can generally be heard around the world (but is greatly affected by the conditions of the ionosphere and the time of day). One of these stations comes from the United States government, called “Voice of America” (VOA).

Due to the conditions of the Smith-Mundt act, VOA cannot broadcast to audiences inside the United States (though, you can find the webcasts here:, and instead targets a worldwide audience. Of particular interest to me recently is the “Special English” broadcast, explained here:

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.

It’s surprisingly interesting to listen to, as a native English speaker, if you can get over the _very_ _slow_ speed of speech and exaggerated enunciation (which, as stated above, is by design to use as an educational element).

All of this fascinates me for a couple of reasons. Government stations are always fun to listen to because of the slant they put into their broadcasts (whether slight or large), educational broadcasts are interesting, and mainly, it makes me wonder if other countries offer a similar service to learn their language. Hmmm…