News for dummies in French and English

Date:April 12, 2006 / year-entry #131
Orig Link:
Comments:    21
Summary:In case you didn't get the joke, "News for dummies" is just my nickname for the news designed for non-native speakers. It tends to be spoken more slowly and use less advanced vocabulary. I use the term because I'm the dummy, you see. If I were smart, then I'd use the news for native speakers....

In case you didn't get the joke, "News for dummies" is just my nickname for the news designed for non-native speakers. It tends to be spoken more slowly and use less advanced vocabulary. I use the term because I'm the dummy, you see. If I were smart, then I'd use the news for native speakers. (Sometimes I give it a shot and then my head explodes. German tends to explode my head more than Swedish.)

In response to my links to the Swedish and German news for dummies, commenter David Conrad asked if there was an equivalent service in French. I don't speak French myself, but a little bit of web searching turned up Le journal en français facile which appears to be the news in easy French. They even have a quiz afterwards to see how good a job you did. And like Deutsche Welle, they also have a series of online French lessons.

I didn't have quite as much luck finding a Japanese version, but this page may help. (And I amused myself by listening to the Japanese news in Swedish.)

Commenter Peter Chen wonders if there's an English news for dummies. A very quick search at the Voice of America News site reveals News in Special English, a service that provides the news and cultural information about the United States in Special English. Analogous with the Swedish Klartext style, Special English uses a reduced vocabulary, avoids idioms, and keeps to a simple sentence structure.

Here one way to find the news for dummies in various languages: Choose a likely country for the language you are interested in. Find the national radio broadcast service for that country. Go to their web site and start poking around. (Of course, you have to be able to read the language you're searching for.) Often—two out of three in today's examples—you will find the "news for dummies" on the front page or close to it.

Comments (21)
  1. madlax says:

    One question, can you speak in Chinese? That’s the final question that make me feel curious for a long time. I hope this is not private.

  2. Alex S says:

    The French news isn’t slower, just in simpler French. Still a challange despite five years of study. :)

  3. Brian says:

    hah, that special english is awesome.  It reminds me of a scruffy 3rd grader reading his book report.  I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to sound like though.

  4. Dewi Morgan says:

    Surely the BBC world service ould be anyone’s first stop when looking for ESL news?

  5. orcmid says:

    I am often reminded that the international language of this era is English as spoken by non-native speakers.  As a native speaker, I find myself operating under a handicap.  I know that my speaking and writing are too complex.  It comes naturally.  Some of my international colleagues are kind enough to remind me of that.

    I want very much to have my writings be understandable to an international audience and I am looking for more guidance to Easy English / Special English.  The BBC site looks interesting too.  As an English speaker, to adjust my English for non-native speakers (and young American students too).  

    This is a great find.  Thanks Raymond.  I’ll be watching for anything more you and others come up with.

  6. 8 says:

    There’s still a strange word on the special english news page, "Ladybug". Even if i knew exactly what it meant it would still sound strange. Is it one of those small red bugs with black spots that look cute but pee in your hand and fly off? And botanic in "Botanic Garden"

    "I use the term because I’m the dummy. If I were smart, then I’d use the news for native speakers."

    I think it has more to do with what you grew up with. If you move to france/germany, then perhaps in a few years or so you’ll speak fluent french/german.

    BTW I get most american news from tv or newspaper, and digg/k5h//. VOA doesn’t seem very interesting except for War and Conflict. Hmm.. "ousted"? I think they mean bonjoured ;)

  7. Nish says:


    You had to call him Peter Chen, didn’t ya? He hates being called that :-)

    His name is Peterchen – German name, single word.

    From his CP profile :

    "Peter is tired of being called "Mr. Chen", even so certain individuals insist on it. No, he’s not chinese."

  8. Mike Dunn says:

    The Easy French News is still too fast for me. :( They appear to be using simple vocab but are speaking at a native-speaker pace.

  9. Nish says:

    CP = Code Project

  10. orcmid says:

    Re the comments from "8".  

    This is the first paragraph of the Ladybug article if you go to it:

    "There are lots of insects that farmers hate.  But there also are some they like.  These protect crops against damage from other insects.  A good example is the lady beetle, also known as the ladybug."  

    There’s an image of a lady beetle on the page.

    And "Botanic" does look odd until we see that it is an official name:

    "And I’m Bob Doughty.  This week, we tell about the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.  It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the country."

    I don’t know what leads someone to be curious and dig deeper about these cases.  I don’t know what will encourage beginning programmers to seek answers in documentation and experiment at resolving problems compiling code either.  I am curious about that, though.    

  11. peterchen says:

    Nish . why did you… :blush:

    you couldn’t possibly know that, raymond. But to make up for it, some german stuff:

    ladybug – in german "Marienkäfer" (‘bug of mary’), regionally also "Mutschekiebel" or "Mutschekiebchen" (I could never figure out where these variants come from), and supposed to bring luck.

  12. Tom says:

    There’s even an English encyclopedia for dummies:  <a href=""></a&gt;.

  13. Steve says:

    And just to confuse you even further Ladybugs are known as Ladybirds in the UK. In fact the publisher of a famous range of childrens books was called Ladybird.

  14. 8 says:

    "There’s an image of a lady beetle on the page." Oh, I’m so sorry.

    "It is one of the oldest botanical gardens"

    Still doesn’t make sense, but the next sentence explains a bit.

    As for what makes one digg deeper, it’s all about whether it’s interesting. There’s no interest if someone doesn’t care, and there is a big interest if there’s a motivation like learning something useful and fun.

  15. Heh, I was an avid Special English program listener when I was in Xiamen University in China from 1990 to 1994. Special English program, from both VOA and the BBC, were popular those days, especially for young people who were eager to learn English, with VOA’s program slightly more popular than the BBC’s.

    Having lived in the US for so long, I found myself having trouble understanding English spoken outside of North America.

    For those who are interested, I have a short piece on American English, written in Chinese here:

  16. Markus Petersson says:

    Some years ago did some work for the bureau that produces Klartext. It’s actually not aimed at non-native speakers, but rather people with reading and/or text comprehension dísabilities. Apart from Klartext they also do a lot of work producing simplified citizen-information for other government agencies. But it works for language learners aswell!

  17. Kzinti says:

    I am a native French speaker and I do find that they speak quite fast. They do speak really clearly and with almost no accent though.

  18. orcmid says:

    I’ve been reading the book "The Language Instinct" by Stephen Pinker.  Pinker points out that in most spoken languages, there is no pause between words.  We learn to hear the separation among words, but we don’t pause in speaking.

    I noticed in Italian language classes that my greatest difficulties were with television, film, and radio that we were asked to listen to and explain.  Even the recorded conversations were difficult.  I can’t pick out the words or I hear the wrong words.  The exception is Roberto Begnini who enunciates Italian in a way that I can understand.  The most difficult is popular radio with fast-speaking announcers and newscasters.  

    I find this true for Spanish and Italian language broadcasts.  I haven’t tried German.

    PS: I found the Special English vocabulary on the site (the "Word List" link on the sidebar), and I’ve requested a printed version.  It will be interesting to discover how to introduce technical English terms.

  19. David Conrad says:

    Merci beaucoup, Raymond. As the other commenters mentioned, the speed still makes it quite challenging, but I find that I am able to understand the gist of the news stories. (Being up-to-date on the latest world developments via Google News also helps, since the stories then tend to already be familiar.) This is going to be a great resource for me to brush up on my French. (And I got mentioned by name on The Old New Thing. Woohoo!)

  20. Some people seem to be interested.

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