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Major Article 5

Towards a People’s English: Back to BASIC in EIL

Bill Templer, Thailand.

[Editorial Note: after reading Bill's article you may want to click across to ELF at the Gate: the position of English as a Lingua Franca, Jennifer Jarvis, Ideas from the Corpora, March 2005]


A widening gyre in the EIL gap

Ogden and Richards re-visited

EME ( Every Man's English)

BASIC in the ecology of EIL

Some basics of BASIC

From BASIC to wider English

Now is the time

Japan as a laboratory for BASIC/EME

Experimentation in China

BEI in Marshalltown

A window for language awareness and interpretation

BASIC contra fossilisation?

Building a platform of new practice and theory

Democratising knowledge

Past as prologue



I expect to be on that job of showing how to make things easier to learn the rest of my life (Richards 1938)

This is a paper about the need for a fundamental rethink of what we are doing. Especially for the many of us teaching English as an international language (EIL) to non-elite students on the myriad peripheries. It argues for flexibly re-exploring in depth the simplified auxiliary language BASIC developed by C.K. Ogden, I.A. Richards and their associates, along with Richard’s amplified version Every Man’s English, attuned to the needs of the mass teaching and learning of EIL today.

A Widening Gyre in the EIL Gap

Proficiency in English is becoming a major gatekeeper to entry into a social elite in many societies across the planet. Yet great masses of learners of EIL in the grassroots cultures of the Global South have little access to EFL instruction to begin with, or remain at fossilized levels of weak control even after extended years of classroom study. That is the striking case throughout Thailand, Laos, across rural China, Indonesia, Central Asia and elsewhere in many corners of the developing world: a rapidly widening gap between EIL haves and have-nots. Millions of young and adult working-class learners in developed economies face a similar problem, especially in Eastern Europe. As do all socially disadvantaged learners everywhere. Roma children and youth in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, for example, have little knowledge of EIL, and many leave formal schooling at an early age.

Any version of English adopted for wider communication will have its defining socioeconomic class in a given country, usually those with privileged access to education and mobility. This is the geopolitics of Global English, its class character, a landscape of cores and peripheries in the so-called ‘Expanding Circle’. Proficiency, oriented to native-speaker norms, is necessarily embedded in these structures of inequity. Those inequalities are multiplying around us, an unavoidable ‘externality’ or ‘spin-off’ of our teaching of EIL.

Can these trends be countered? Is there an economical alternative, an EIL that is a more simple, more learnable and thus more democratic? Not an ‘elementary’ English such as the first two levels (A1/A2) of the six-level Common European Framework proficiency scale, but a controlled smaller-scale language that has, as it were, a gyroscope of its own as a self-contained global auxiliary medium.

My experience in Eastern Europe and East Asia suggests we need a powerful but condensed and simplified version of the language that can be learned more quickly -- without the gargantuan waste of time and energy in trying to master endless confusing lexis and synonyms that has induced learners in Thailand to nickname English “the Monster”. We need a ‘learner-friendly’ EIL that is a more delimited skill, instead of the seeming ‘Everest’ of complexity learners face today. There is also need for a wealth of serious reading materials of all kinds in that more simplified form of English as an instrument for democratising knowledge, for ‘talking science and humanities’ in a far leaner and more ‘analytic’ medium. Not ‘graded readers’, but another species of discourse.

Ogden and Richards Revisited

The prime candidate for such more ‘pared down’ global communication, a kind of ‘people’s English’, is an experimental lect developed and promoted in the international infancy of the EFL profession, launched by the psychologist Charles K. Ogden at the end of the 1920s: BASIC. Spread by the Orthological Institute in London, its quite remarkable influence peaked in late 1943, and withered during the Cold War. The original BASIC vocabulary was 850 ‘essential’ headwords, and as Ogden stated, it would make it “possible to say all that we normally desire to say”, with no more words than can be put in compact form on a one-page word list (Ogden 1930, p. 9): “In Basic English, the end of the work is in view all the time” (1932, p. viii). Four-skill mastery of unlimited English remains elusive for many, but within BASIC is a feasible aim: “Basic English is a system in which 850 English words will do the work of 20,000, and so give to everyone a second or international language which will take as little of the learner's time as possible”. This “language within a language” (Richards 1968a, p. 242) can be taught at minimum cost, even in low-resourced learning environments, and to large classes, in a fraction of the time invested in most EFL curricula. As Turner (1941) and Horst (1956) exemplify, it is also uniquely geared to self-instruction.

The famous BASIC word list -- 100 Operation Words, the 600 Things (400 General and 200 Pictured), the 100 Qualities and the 50 Opposites -- put in columns on a single sheet of paper is an emblem of that economy in learning effort, compactness of presentation, and the separation of the "functional" from the "content" words ( or ). A corollary in simplicity is the ‘Panopticon’ word wheel for BASIC syntax (Ogden 1932, p. 186; ). The list, based on research over seven years (1925-32), was the product of the testing out of the powers of English words, how they are able to take over the work of others. It is important to understand that BASIC is not about some highly reduced ‘essential’ vocabulary, a kind of ‘survival mini-language’ -- it is a different kind of English discourse, a ‘working model of full English’. And was “conceived with a dual purpose—-a means of International Communication, and as an aid to the Science of Interpretation” (Ogden 1937).

The idea for BASIC was born as Ogden and his colleague I. A. Richards, the major British literary theorist of the 1920s, were working on the chapter on “Definition” in writing their path-breaking semantic study, The Meaning of Meaning (1923): “at the end of it we suddenly stared at one another and said, ‘Do you know that this means with under a thousand words you can say everything’” (quoted from a 1973 interview with Richards, Koeneke 2004, p. 92). Though radically simplified, BASIC is still normal English. As Richards noted:

It is limited in its words and its rules, but it keeps to the regular forms of English. And though it is designed to give the learner as little trouble as possible, it is no more strange to the eyes of my readers than these lines, which are in fact in Basic English (1943, p. 20).

EME ( Every man's English)

In a broader compass of re-exploration, the profession should also look at the more flexible, ‘suppled-up’ version of BASIC that I.A. Richards spent the last 30 years of his life developing and promoting, Every Man’s English (Richards 1968a; Richards and Gibson 1974). By the late 1940s, Richards and Ogden had largely parted company over BASIC, and Richards, based at Harvard University and teamed with Christine Gibson, was pursuing new ways of teaching EME.

In some essential ways, Richards’ modifications answered criticism against BASIC’s minimalism raised by West and Swenson (1934) and later voices in Johnsen (1944). Though Richards himself has noted that many criticisms at the time were unfounded: “then soon after Churchill and Roosevelt had given Basic English their push, there developed a series of misrepresentations: accounts of it from ‘specialists’ who had not read Ogden's expositions” (1968a, p. 245). Michael West himself pioneered graded reading materials and later his own version of a controlled lexicon for ELT in his General Service List of English Words (1953). The GSL, with 2,000 headwords a ‘core’ lexicon that was highly influential in post-war ELT methodology, could also be brought into the more creatively eclectic equation in a revitalising of the project of BASIC today (see ). As Richards (1968a, p. 241) stressed: “No doubt we can see now, as the proposer of Basic English hardly could, that an auxiliary world language will have to be (as with the automobile and the airplane) a developing design, redesigned as performance data indicate”.

BASIC in an Ecology of EIL

It is remarkable how BASIC and Every Man’s English have disappeared totally from the radar screens of the EFL profession and applied English linguistics. Standard works such as Crystal (1995), Carter and Nunan (2001) and a key volume on EIL (McKay 2002) make no mention of it whatsoever. Yet BASIC and its sister EME would seem to be an especially intriguing option at a point in global communication patterns where “the majority of EIL interactions world-wide take place between speakers for none of whom English is the mother tongue and for none of whom English is a cultural symbol” (van Essen 2004). In part, my reflections here are a different kind of response to van Essen’s observation: “As an international language, English has become de-nationalised. It is no longer the property of the native English-speaking nations; it has got into the hands of foreigners. They own it now. What does that mean for us teachers and materials designers?” I suggest: take a fresh serious look at BASIC and its kin.

And perhaps instead of ‘international’, “Supranational would be the better fitted word. The common language must carry and be carried by the supranational impulse, and be the organ of the supranational mind” (Richards 1943, p. 10).

Some Basics of BASIC

An all-purpose auxiliary language suited for Business, Administrative, Scientific, Instructional and Commercial uses --- BASIC is “not merely a list of words, governed by a minimum apparatus of essential English grammar, but a highly organized system designed throughout to be as easy as possible for a learner” (Richards 1943, p. 21). The original BASIC has only 16 verbs or ‘operators’ (come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, put, seem, take, be, do, have, say, see, send, along with may and will), plus 20 ‘directives’ (prepositions and particles), conceiving of verbs as ‘directional actions’: “there are 4000 common verbs in the English language which may be similarly displaced by the sixteen operators” (Ogden 1937). Utilising the suffix ‘-ed’, many additional ‘verbal’ expressions are created, such as I was surprised from the noun (‘thing’) surprise, or It was covered with flowers from the noun cover. ‘Acts’ are formed with ‘ing’, so the noun look serves as the basis for I was looking at the sky.

Richard’s EME augments this by 30 verbs, 10 adjectives (‘qualities’) and a number of nouns (‘general things’, ‘picturables’), but is also very parsimonious, based on ‘’a small group of relaxations and expansions that ease the work” (Richards and Gibson 1974, p. 53). Syntax is pared down and made more transparent, grounded on a handful of ‘rules’. A useful chapter on grammar simplification ( ) provides a readable overview (Richards and Gibson 1945). As an English ‘nuclear mini-lect’ in its own right, BASIC can be taught far more economically than Complete English, and with a unique classroom focus on a kind of practical hands-on semantics.

Central to BASIC and Every man’s English is the technique of paraphrase: ‘give thought to’ or ‘have in mind’ instead of ‘think’, ‘give up’ instead of ‘abandon, abdicate, resign, vacate’ and so forth: “Put is an operator; in is a directive; put in says what it might be expected to say, and neither constituent can be dispensed with in an ultimate analysis. Insert, on the other hand, is a linguistic device, or stylistic luxury, which can be dispensed with” (Ogden 1937). The verb ‘know’ is replaced by ‘have knowledge of’, ‘be certain of’, ‘be clear about’. The General Basic English Dictionary (Orthological Institute 1940) gives 40,000 meanings of 20,000 words in Standard English, all defined in minimal BASIC.

A text in BASIC reads much like standard English, despite its paucity of verbs. This is quite different from ‘graded’ readers and analogous material ‘scaled’ for difficulty or ‘written-down’. Here is a bit of the Atlantic Charter in the original (left) and rewritten in BASIC (Richards and Gibson 1945):

after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, after the complete destruction of the

Nazi rule of force,

they hope to see established a peace it is their hope to see a peace made

which will afford to all nations the means which will keep all nations

of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, safe from attack from outside

and which will afford assurance that all the men and which will make certain that all the men

in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom in all the lands will be free from fear and

from fear and want. and need through all their days.

And an extract in BASIC from Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” (Ogden 1937), followed by the original:

Seven and eighty years have gone by from the day when our fathers gave to this land a new nation—a nation which came to birth in the thought that all men are free, a nation given up to the idea that all men are equal. Now we are fighting in a great war among ourselves, testing if that nation, or any nation of such a birth and with such a history, is able long to keep united.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

A fair assessment of BASIC as a medium for thought and expression can only be achieved by reading a full book written in BASIC, like Richards (1933), McGrath (1934) or Rossiter (1935), or Plato’s Republic in expanded BASIC (Richards 1942).

From BASIC to Wider English

Richards repeatedly stressed that Basic is “no rival to or substitute for an ampler English, where the use of that is feasible. It is an introduction and exploratory instrument” (1943, p. vi.). The concept is in some way two-tiered: a supranational auxiliary with a “reasoned design” (Ogden) and compact grammar, a versatile power tool -- and some variety of Complete English for those with the time, opportunity and ‘privilege’ to master it. But BASIC can also be the main plateau of proficiency, with its solid mastery the central goal for millions of learners. Instead of being left at a ‘beginner’s’ level and thus stigmatized, a learner can truly learn to control this ‘controlled’ nuclear model. That is the shift in pedagogical vision I suggest we should be aiming at.

Now is the Time

Barbara Seidlhofer (University of Vienna) has argued that

Basic … is highly significant as a stimulus for thought. What now needs to be done is to see how far Ogden’s conceptual scheme relates to (the still very scarce) empirical findings of how people actually use English as a lingua franca … I am not advocating that we should go into classrooms and teach Basic as described by Ogden. This would be ridiculous (without further research anyway). But it would be equally ridiculous to disregard a great deal of work that has gone into conceptualising, operationalising and trialling a model of English which was designed from the outset as that of an international lingua franca” (2002, pp. 295, 297).

Why “ridiculous”? Experiments need to be redesigned and initiated now, building creatively on past work. Seidlhofer seems to disregard the huge amount of hands-on experience BASIC accumulated in the 1930s and 40s, especially in East Asia (Richards 1935; Koeneke 2004) – “no other restricted English has been tried out so variously and on such a scale” (Richards 1968a, p. 245) -- and the teaching of EME under Richards’ guidance in the U.S. and Latin America (Russo 1989, pp. 430-70). As Richards observed: “The medium exists. Its period of trial or of tutelage […] may be taken to be over” (1943, p. 119).

Japan as a Laboratory for BASIC/EME

In revisiting the terrain of a limited controlled auxiliary English, the wealth of experience teaching ‘Baza Angla’ in Japan over many decades since the 1930s, largely unknown outside the country, needs to be examined in empirical depth. The work of Yuzuru Katagiri and others connected with teaching BASIC and EME is one solid current of experience over many years, often grouped under the umbrella of Graded Direct Method, a term associated with Richards’ work ( ). Richards and Gibson’s textbooks were appropriated by Japanese EFL teachers in the early 1950s, and lasting interest there is reflected in the volume of Richards’ papers edited by Katagiri and Constable (1993). There is a GDM Newsletter, and a conference of GDM teachers met in Kyoto in February 2005. Their seasoned expertise and input in any revitalisation of BASIC are crucial.

Experimentation in China

A prime arena outside Europe for diverse experimentation with BASIC teaching and teacher training was China. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, even as war raged, it was being taught in middle schools in Beijing, Yunnan and elsewhere. The only Orthological Institute outside Britain was the Orthological Institute of China which Richards set up in 1936 in Beijing. Relocated to Kunming in Yunnan, it continued work under the guidance of Bob Winter down to the end of the war. A Provincial English Teachers’ College was set up for training teachers in BASIC in Kunming in 1940 (Koeneke 2004, chap. 6). In 1937, on the eve of the Japanese invasion, the Nationalist Ministry of Education agreed to adopt Basic English in schools across China, and instructed the Orthological Institute of China to develop a workable curriculum. War then brought this initiative to a halt. In 1938, Hong Kong University expressed its willingness to train middle school teachers to teach BASIC (ibid, p. 151). Many associated with the experiment in Yunnan, promoted by the education ministry there, were enthusiastic about the results in middle schools compared with the teaching of Standard English. Much testing of the students’ progress in BASIC was carried out, a range of teaching materials were developed (ibid., chaps. 5-6). Two textbooks (Winter and Shui, 1938, 1939) and a teacher’s handbook (Winter and Shui 1938) were widely used. [1]

BEI in Marshalltown

The demise of Ogden’s Orthological Institute (1930-1962) and Basic English Foundation (1947-1955) has led more recently to a bold venture in the American heartland, the Basic English Institute. It was set up online in January 2003 out of Marshalltown in central Iowa, a spin-off of, created by a team around Jim Manor, a dedicated non-linguist and systems engineer. Its aim is to expand Basic in the 21st century, as a lingua franca and in terms of computer adaptations: Yet the BEI in Iowa is still largely untouched by the present surge in TEFL. Few linguists or TESOL specialists seem to be involved. The Institute deserves to be brought into the TESOL R&D mainstream. Many projects await facilitators.

The website has numerous online books from BASIC’s classic era, including Ogden (1968), which reprints an anthology of Ogden’s key works. It highlights a core bibliography ( ) and numerous key texts

( ) .An excellent online handbook there written at Harvard is Richards and Gibson (1945). Richards and Gibson’s English Through Pictures, Books 1-3 (1973), recently reprinted, could serve as a prototype for new types of textbooks, as could First Steps in Reading English (Richards & Gibson 1957).

A Window for Language Awareness and Interpretation

Ogden and Richards were both geared to the compass of ‘simplify, simplify’ – learning how to say the most complex things in concise, straightforward language:

it is not the quantity of the words we are acquainted with, but the quality of our understanding of them, which matters. The chief vice of foreign-language learning (and indeed of much native-language learning) is picking up words without learning quite what they mean, accepting them with indefinite and vague meanings that thereafter obscure their real uses from us. Basic, through its analytic procedures can avoid this danger more thoroughly than any other mode of introduction to Complete English. (Richards 1968a, p. 250).

This notion of reducing lexis to a minimum and better grasping denotative meaning and ‘vertical translation’ – learning how to rephrase complex words into simpler ones -- is central to what Richards termed “techniques in language control” to make communication, even for native speakers, clearer and more effective (Richards and Gibson 1974). Is BASIC paraphrasing more efficient than paraphrase in full English? Some scholars think it is -- because you cannot rely on the rich resource of ready-made synonyms, a kind of ‘word-swapping’ (Richards and Gibson 1974, pp. 124-136; Sweeney 1943).

It is precisely this meta-linguistic dimension that intrigues Seidlhofer: “current language pedagogy remains ‘code-fixated’ in the sense that it may just develop an unthinking proficiency in abilities for use rather than an intrinsic awareness of the nature of language itself and its creative potential” (p. 294). Conjunct with work on BASIC, Richards (1942) strove to teach new semantic approaches, via the prism of “100 great words”, to in-depth reading for everyone, in effect a kind of ‘English-English’ translation, techniques of paraphrasing and using simple language to examine complex words and ideas. That built in part on his earlier work as a literary theorist on why readers misinterpret poetic language (Richards 1929).

As a teacher of English at Cambridge, with decades of experience of similar conditions at Harvard, I feel some confidence in saying that our most careful and expensive methods of teaching people how to read are, judged by their results, at present almost ludicrously inefficient (Richards 1968a,p. 254).

An extended sample of EME for semantic description (Richards and Gibson 1974, chap. 8) suggests its power.

BASIC contra Fossilisation?

It is widely recognized in Thailand that EFL proficiency levels in most government schools and universities are a national disaster, even after 11-14 years of instruction. For the vast majority of Thai learners, a refurbished BASIC along the lines of Every Man’s English may be one alternative to the staggering mis-investment in learning Complete English. Can fossilized varieties of interlanguage be ‘defragmented’? Systematic teaching in BASIC, with its dense dynamics of recycling and lexical minimalism, may be one practicable therapy that can instill learners with new confidence. Writing about China, Richards and Gibson (1945, p. 11) observe:

On current teaching practice, years of study don't get most of the students anywhere. It's really daunting to think of the billions of boy-girl years of toil that have been and will be wasted In the absence of an introduction to English which will take them more quickly to a useful point.. . . It is a grim picture. We propose to free more time for Chinese for Chinese students.

These criticisms still hold in many corners of the planet, especially for students from non-elite backgrounds. They later argue:

Naturally, students of the language who have had a bad start with English but know they have invested years of study in it at first may feel dismay at being turned back to a small vocabulary and simple sentences. But the more intelligent they are the more readily they come to see that drill with common statement patterns built up of widely useful words is what they need. An able surgeon from Peru will ask for three weeks of Basic structure patterns so that he can present a paper on obstetrics at the medical school where he is visiting. The medical terminology he has in common with the doctors he is to address. It is the framework of simple English statement that he needs, and he finds with relief that Basic can give it to him. It does with broken English what he can do with broken bones (1945, p. 52).

Richards, of course, like many TESOLers today, was confronted with forms of heavily fossilized ELF interlanguage that deviate markedly from norms in ‘native’ Englishes.

Building a Platform of New Practice and Theory

What is needed is an international network of teachers and scholars to build a platform and network for experimentation with BASIC and Every Man’s English, ‘retrofitted’ to current realities. A small international association could be established. An online newsletter could follow. Intensive short courses to train teachers in using EME and BASIC, as Richards pioneered in China and later in the U.S., would be a concrete beginning (Richards 1968). For us as teachers, learning to write in BASIC takes time and skill, speaking well requires guided practice. Ogden (1968) remains a main text for self-instruction. The BEI is developing new angles for instruction and computer adaptations. What is not needed is some sort of revived pedagogical ‘movement’ (Richards 1968a, p. 245) but rather a serious look at new vistas and the possibility of a ‘BASIC redux’: “a common-sense instrument with which to work for a common-world education” (ibid.).

One goal is a new form of streamlined EAP, which would allow scientists to write abstracts and presentations of their work in a simple, understandable form in ‘transactional’ professional communications. My experience with scientists in Thailand indicates that even after 12 years of English instruction and an ability to passively decode texts in their sub-field, very few can formulate simple expositions of their own work. Every Man’s English for science and technology offers an effective written alternative that can be actively mastered. Unusually weak listening comprehension skills, common in Thailand, may also be amenable to corrective therapy via EME. Schooling the ear through dictation is a major desideratum in EIL learning environments in East Asia: innovative nuts-and-bolts approaches anchored in an amplified BASIC could also be developed. Certainly Jenkins’ (2000) notions of a simplified Lingua Franca Core for teaching phonology, aimed at intelligibility among non-native speakers, could be readily adapted to instruction for BASIC and EME, and is indeed ideally suited to a ‘small-scale’ form of the language for global communication that in effect has no native speakers in the strict sense.

Democratising Knowledge

Ogden and his associates wished to create a rich array of reading materials, a kind of Every Man’s Library in BASIC. That can be revitalized inside a TESOL profession committed to the fuller, more direct democratising of the knowledge society: “It is the humanities as well as the sciences which we must make accessible again” (Richards and Gibson 1974, p. 53). Richards (1933) presented a course in logic written fully in BASIC. In 1942, he published an edition of Plato’s Republic in amplified BASIC, released as a GI pocketbook. He also did a version of Homer’s Iliad in EME (1950), distributing it in China. A BASIC version of Shaw’s Arms and the Man by Ms. L. W. Lockhart appeared in 1936, praised by Shaw. There is a complete translation of the Bible in elegant BASIC online (

We need current introductions in BASIC to many disciplines, such as Salzedo (1933) pioneered for business. Rossiter (1935) applies BASIC as a critical tool in the humanities for interpreting poetry, as did later William Empson (Richards and Gibson 1974, pp. 61-63), grounded on the “way in which BASIC gets a complex idea broken up into its parts”.

Exciting would be an online BASIC newspaper, in part akin to the aims of VOA’s Special English (1,500 headwords), itself largely a restricted lexis spoken at slower speed. With imagination, even a satellite channel like Discovery, in BASIC, seems doable, and of course feature programmes on local radio. The Basic English Institute is inviting people to create WebZines. Numerous texts from the 1930s, like McGrath’s (1934) classic written in BASIC on architecture, and E. C. Graham’s The Basic Dictionary of Science (1966), William Empson’s version of J.B.S. Haldane’s The Outlook of Science (1935) and Rossiter’s Basic for Geology (1937) prove that technical description in BASIC is highly efficient, and can reconstitute ‘talking science’.

In reconfiguring the framework for such a ‘people’s English’, the ultimate dynamics for its adoption and spread must ideally flow from the grassroots, not imposed by governments or elites from above: “A common language for the earth will only come into being through the common work of common men and women in their common interests” (Richards 1943, p. 119).

Past as Prologue

H. G. Wells, in his The Shape of Things to Come (1933), had a relevant vision of the 21st century and its global communication landscapes (here from a version put into BASIC):

One unlooked-for development of the hundred years between 2000 and 2100 was the way in which Basic English became in that short time the common language for use between nations […] C. K. Ogden and another Fellow of Magdalene College, I. A. Richards […] got out a book, The Meaning of Meaning, in 1923 which is one of the earliest attempts to make the language-machine better. Basic English was produced in the process. The new Science had almost no money at the back of it, only a small number of workers were interested, and in the troubled years which came later it went from view. It came to the front again some time between 2000 and 2050 (Turner 1941, pp. 163-166).



1. By 1939, the Orthological Institute in London had extended its operations to 25 countries. Ogden elaborated his concept of the new field of Orthology, the ‘normative science of language’, in numerous essays. During WW II, the Harvard Commission on English Language Studies that Richards guided, along with his Orthological Committee at Harvard University and Language Research, Inc., developed materials for BASIC for Latin America and in immigrant ESL and literacy education in the United States (Koeneke 2004, pp. 186, 190). All this was part of Richards’ life-long commitment within reading theory, applied semantics, literary criticism and EFL pedagogy to what he called “ling uistic engineering” (ibid., p. 32). In September 1943, a speech by Winston Churchill at Harvard inter alia praised BASIC and its prospects for the future. Here he formulated his famous phrase: “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind” (Koeneke 2004, pp. 186-187). Life magazine later carried a feature story on BASIC presenting the venture to a broader American public (Barnett 1943). President Franklin D. Roosevelt also expressed interest in the mini-language’s potential. Empson, in retrospect, regarded Churchill’s interest as the “kiss of death” (Russo 1989, p. 438). This was BASIC’s heyday, rapidly eclipsed by later events, including the departure of Churchill, a cooling of interest in BASIC at the British Council, the dismantlement of the Empire, revolution in China and the advent of the Cold War. But Richards’ post-war global impact through his textbooks English Through Pictures was considerable. In Japan, 200 teachers have worked with the GDM methods he pioneered, and various materials developed there, including videos and DVDs, are still in creative use (Katagiri 2005). The files of Richards’ Language Research, Inc. were transferred to the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1984 and researchers can examine them there. There was much experimentation in teaching (Richards 1968b; Russo 1989, esp. pp. 430-70).


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