Basic English ->Ubuntu
The majority of sentences spoken in English today are between non-native speakers of English. Since communication is about avoiding miscommunication, writers and speakers should keep their vocabularies small and their grammar simple. I urge that Ubuntu establish a simplified English for any word processing software it develops and put it in at the highest level, namely on the toolbar at the top of the page.
More below. I do not know if this is the best forum. So please direct me to better ones or to the important players at Ubantu.
This will enable a writer to check whether his words are among the most frequent ones in English or else are part of the special vocabulary of his audience. A physicist, for example, can assume his readers will all know what "energy" means in their own language but may make a mistake in guessing what "obfuscate" means.
If Ubantu does this, it could gain hundreds of millions of users throughout the world who are eager to find software that will make sure that miscommunication is avoided. I have a great many ideas about how this should be accomplished. But for now I want to be sure I am reaching the right audience. I want the open source community to do this first, and so I won't give away my thoughts here. Suffice it to say that I can go into:
1. The history of the attempts to develop "small Englishes," software for both vocabulary and grammar that is currently available (mostly proprietary)
2. Regional adaptations of English (Chinglish, Korlish, Japlish)
3. English for special purposes (business English, call-center English)
4. How English is learned: formal classrooms, but more just-in-time, night school, tourist phrase books.
5. How a word processor should have layers of vocabularies: a read-only vocabulary for all, several levels of expanded vocabularies, customized vocabularies for teachers (read-only to the students), a physics vocabulary constructed by adding physics words chosen by, say, the American Physics Institute, to one of several level expanded vocabularies.
6. How agreeing on what I find to be the first and still be effort to develop a small English, namely that of C.K. Ogden in 1930, will lead English learners to begin with Ogden's list of the 850 most basic CONCEPTS (because, more and more, that is what every else will be doing). It was in thinking about the learning of English around the world that led to these thoughts and why this posting is to the "Education & science" forum.
My qualifications are:
1. Doctorate in Pubic Choice economics from George Mason University under James M. Buchanan, with a strong interest in Austrian economics and spontaneous order.
2. Work as an economist at the U.S. Department of Education since 1985, with recent, extensive work in the learning of English in the Asia-Pacific countries. (I am strictly free lancing here. My views are not those of the place I work for, though they should be!)
3. Side interests in evolutionary psychology, mathematical logic, and, well, scads of other fields.
(What's the Basic English equivalent of "scad"? Answer: "a great number of." But that is the Basic English equivalent of "many." (Remember, Basic English has only 859 word.) Its equivalent of "several" is either "some" or "quite a number of." See the problem. If you are a native English speaker, you know that "oddles" is not quite the same thing as "scads," but in both cases they are more colorful than just "many." So how does one get the special meaning of "scads" across to non-native speakers? I do not have a ready answer, which is why the Internet can be so useful.)
I am surprised no one has come up with the idea of working Basic English into Ubantu, though there has been an awkward integration into the OpenOffice Suite, with apparently very little cooperation from OpenOffice.org. (See http://www.basic-english.org for both scads and oddles of good ideas.)
I place these thoughts into the public domain. Steal them, modify them, cruelly misrepresent them. But if you want more ideas, come back.