美国之音(以下称VOA)的英语节目,按播音速度可分为两种:Standard English (标准英语)和 Special English(特别英语)。

Special English 又叫“慢速英语”,是VOA 专为全世界非英语国家初学英语的听众安排的一种简易、规范的英语广播节目。该节目创始于50年代末期,是VOA 的专家们研究如何与世界各地的英语学习者进行交际的产物。它正式开播于1959年10月。当时只面向欧洲和中东,但由于这个节目适合许多国家英语学习者的需要,所以它的广播对象不久就扩大到世界其他地区,并很快在全世界范围内产生了广泛的影响。现在这个节目对欧洲、非洲和拉丁美洲每晚广播一次,对加勒比地区每晚广播一次(星期天除外),对东南亚广播次数最多,每天上午两次,晚上三次。

30多年来,VOA 为了办好Special English节目,进行了大量的调查研究工作,对播音速度、内容及用词范围都作了具体规定,基本上达到了既能为英语学习者提供信息,又不损害英语本身风格的目的,使之成为VOA 独具特色,拥有最大量听众的节目。

美国著名词汇学家S. B. Flexmer 指明了Special English的三条标准,也就是它所“特别”的地方:

1、它是一种由美国人最常用的1500个基本单词为主体构成的美国英语;

2、它用简短、明晰的句子写作和广播;

3、它以每分钟90个单词的速度,即2/3的Standard English(标准英语)速度进行广播。

Special English的节目可分为两大类:一类是新闻节目;一类是专题节目。

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