There is a whole Wikipedia written in Basic English. This leads to the question if something similar exists for Spanish. Maybe a type of controlled language for teaching aboriginals a simplified Spanish at the time of colonialism?

What would be/was the basic vocabulary of this simplified Spanish?

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    If I had time, I'd write down all the words I know in Spanish as an answer to the vocabulary question. ;-) – Jon Ericson Nov 18 '11 at 23:53
  • No we have no "Hoch"-spanish, we have different Academias de la Lengua and all of them are so valid like the others. – Rafa Sep 5 '13 at 8:28

There simply isn't sufficient need for simplified Spanish.

There are estimated 390 mln people speaking Spanish, with 329 mln of them being native speakers. Thus only small minority (15%) of people speaking Spanish are non-native speakers.

By contrast, there are estimated 1.5 bln people speaking English (on various levels), but only 328mln of them are native speakers. Thus great majority (79%) of people using English are not native speakers.

And in absolute numbers it's 1.2 bln non-native English speakers vs 60 mln non-native Spanish speakers. That's 20 times more.

Source of the numbers: Wikipedia : List of languages by number of native speakers

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    Very interesting. Could you add some sources for your numbers? – Flimzy Nov 18 '11 at 14:37
  • +1 for the logical reasoning that we don't need Basic Spanish nowadays. Nonetheless, I'm still interested from a historical point of view, if there were at any time concepts/works on such a adaption of Spanish (e.g. at the time of colonialism?) – Hauser Nov 18 '11 at 15:14
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    @Hauser: what makes you think Conquistadors were interested in bringing education? – vartec Nov 18 '11 at 15:21
  • @vartec Hey, I didn't say I'm a expert in spanish history :) I know that there were concepts of controlled german at the time of colonialism, maybe more to control aboriginals than to educate them. I know Spanish is one of the easier to learn languages, but there may have been still a use of a simpler Spanish with few grammatic rules and small vocabulary to teach it to many people within a short period of time. – Hauser Nov 18 '11 at 15:38
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    @vartec The missionaries in New Spain invested enormous resources in didactic religious artwork and wrote the largest and most extensive set of dictionaries and grammars ever seen for native languages in the Sixteenth through Eighteenth centuries. It wasn't entirely altruistic but it was a serious effort at education. – Brian Nov 19 '11 at 7:19

I was not aware of any attempts to create a single language that would be "simple Spanish". Still, you can find a lot of books written in simplified Spanish. They are called "lecturas graduadas" and are adapted for students of different levels.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) defines six levels of knowing a language:

  • basic speaker (A1 and A2);
  • independent speaker (B1 and B2);
  • proficient speaker (C1 and C2).

In Europe, Plan curricular del Instituto Cervantes is the standard reference for Spanish. For each level, teachers decide which vocabulary and grammatical structures students already know and which are appropriate for this level, thus roughly defining a 'simplified' language that can be used to write textbook exercises or "lecturas graduadas".

However, this simplicity is not strict: we have no standard "word lists", and teaching materials intentionally include less frequent words.

According to the approach of Instituto Cervantes, one of the essential skills that a student has to learn is

aplicar procedimientos habituales en el uso de una lengua extranjera, como deducir del contexto el significado de alguna palabra o alguna estructura gramatical que no conoces.

to apply standard techniques when using a foreign language: for example, to infer from the context the meaning of an unknown word or grammatical structure

-- El Cronómetro. Manual de preparación del DELE. Nivel B1. Edinumen, 2011.

There are even special exercises designed to train the skill of guessing the meaning from the context. In comparison to this approach, a controlled simple language where all the words are already known would be too artificial.

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There have been various attempts made at forming "simplified Spanish" but none of them seem to have caught on as a "standard" in the same way Basic English has--very likely for reasons pointed out in @vartec's answer.

You can read about one such proposal, apparently intended for accademic use, which suggests such simplifications as simplifying numbers by using diez y uno, diez y dos, etc, in place of once, doce, etc; using simpler conjucations of some irregular verbs; more consistent spellings (using k in place of a hard c, for instance), etc.

One could argue that this really isn't the same as "Basic English" since, unlike Basic English, it actually changes grammar and spelling conventions, rather than creating a simplified form that would be natural for a native speaker to read.

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As far as I know, there is no "official" Basic Spanish.

But take the 850 Basic English words, translate them into Spanish, and you have a "basic Spanish" vocabulary that you can work with. At least, those are the Spanish words I'd learn first.

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