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THIS IS AMERICA - January 20, 2003: Learning English - 2003-01-17


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VOICE ONE:

Millions of people around the world choose English as the first foreign language they want to study. It is the most widely taught foreign language in the world. I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember. Today we tell about teaching and learning English on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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VOICE ONE:

Millions of people around the world want to learn English or improve their skills in the language. There are many reasons for this. Some people plan to move to the United States. Others want to visit America or another English-speaking country. Still other people need to know English for work in their home nations. Many international businesses today require knowledge of the language.

VOICE TWO:

The United States Department of State supports English teaching activities in foreign nations. Its Office of English Language Programs helps other countries train their teachers in American English. The goal is to help foreign teachers offer English to their students. Experts plan, hold and support a number of programs. These include language schools in universities, education ministries and community centers.

VOICE ONE:

The Voice of America is currently broadcasting two series of English-teaching programs. One teaches general English. The other offers help with English used in business. You can hear these programs before our Special English broadcasts.

Our listeners say Special English helps them learn and improve their English. We write and broadcast news and feature stories in a way that foreign listeners can understand. We use a limited number of words. We use short, clear sentences. Our announcers read these programs slower than regular English. There are several ways you can use Special English to improve your English. You can record Special English programs and study them later. If you have a computer, you can listen to these programs on our Internet Web Site, w-w-w-dot v-o-a specialenglish dot com. (www.voaspecialenglish.com) You can also print the texts of most of these programs from the Web site.

When you feel ready, you can listen to VOA’s programs in regular English. Or download scripts from the VOA Web site, w-w-w-dot v-o-a news dot com. (www.voanews.com)

VOICE TWO:

Watching American television programs and movies also are good ways to develop language skills. Reading newspapers and magazines in English helps, too.

You can also ask English-speaking people to help you improve you pronunciation, or how words are said. Read aloud to them. Ask them to correct you. You can also find a number of programs for learning English on your computer. Some are free. Others, like a program called GlobalEnglish, require payment.

Two-million people have learned or improved their English with GlobalEnglish. It offers both general and business English. Some lessons are for beginners. Others are for those who already know at least some of the language. You can try examples of its program on the GlobalEnglish Web site, w-w-w dot g-l-o-b-a-l-e-n-g-l-i-s-h dot com. (www.globalenglish.com)

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VOICE ONE:

An international organization called TESOL helps people learn English in a number of ways. TESOL, spelled T-E-S-O-L, is a shorter way of saying Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. About fourteen-thousand members belong to this education organization. Its headquarters are in Alexandria, Virginia. TESOL has many related offices throughout the world. Some of the largest are in South America, Japan and Egypt. Mary Lou McCloskey is TESOL’s president. She says students learn English well if they have several major needs.

VOICE TWO:

Mizz McCloskey says a student needs an important and useful purpose for studying English. A person who must communicate in an English-speaking country will try hard to succeed. So will a person who must know English at work. For example, she tells about a taxi driver who speaks eight languages. She says he is very intelligent. But she also says he probably speaks all those languages because he needs to in his job.

Mizz McCloskey says students also need the chance to use English once they learn it. Repeating words and groups of words helps establish them in a person’s memory. Another need is a helpful learning environment. The TESOL president describes this environment as one in which both the teacher and teaching materials are effective.

VOICE ONE:

For example, a good teacher speaks slowly to students. The teacher says each word clearly and separately. The teacher uses the most common English word for an object. To do this, the teacher might say the word “car” instead of “automobile” or “vehicle.” The teacher uses sentences that are short, simple and direct. This should also be true of written material.

The TESOL president says teachers use a number of methods to help students learn English. For example, a teacher can communicate the meaning of a word by using comparisons. A teacher may use motion and other body language to demonstrate meaning. Students can develop skills by working in small groups or writing on a blackboard on the wall.

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VOICE TWO:

Experts say children under age twelve usually say foreign words better than adults as they learn a language. Children sound more natural. Like musicians, they have a “good ear” for pronunciation. But Mizz McCloskey says older learners can gain the same ease with English.

She suggests that learning songs helps people pronounce English sounds and words. For example, one of her students could not pronounce the letter “L.” Then the student listened repeatedly and sang the American song, “Lollipop.” Soon she could clearly say her “L’s.”

The TESOL president said learning songs also makes English words easier to remember. The use of words that sound alike can also help people learn.

VOICE ONE:

Many teachers and students say English can be difficult to learn. It has more words than any other language. The biggest dictionaries contain about six-hundred-thousand words.

Many people who come to the United States from foreign countries have already studied English. They may have done very well. But when they arrive here, they may not understand much of what they hear or read. English learned in classrooms sometimes seems very different from every-day spoken English. Studies show that it can take several years of living in the United States while studying English for a foreign person to speak the language well.

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VOICE TWO:

Donna Kinerney (Kih-NEAR-nee) leads an adult-education program in English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, near Washington, D-C. This program is supervised by the Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools. It is the second largest ESOL program in the state. It serves about twelve-thousand students each year.

ESOL teachers work with students on grammar – the ways sentences are formed. But Mizz Kinerney says cultural differences are partly to blame for the difficulty of learning a new language. So the Montgomery County program also places great importance on learning to speak and write English in common situations. Many other language programs in the United States also do this.

VOICE ONE:

For example, students in the Montgomery County program learn phrases they will need when they seek to find a job. In the process, they also learn the correct forms of verbs, or action words.

Students in the program learn how to call for emergency help. They learn to ask how to find a doctor. They learn to complete papers required by their children’s schools. They learn what to ask their children’s teachers. They learn how to get a permit to drive a car. Each process helps the students deal with a new situation as it develops their English skills.

VOICE TWO:

Maria Neves-Silva (NEH-vase-SEEL-vah) is a twenty-one-year-old dancer from Recife, Brazil. She recently spent a year in New York City taking part in a cultural program. Mizz Neves-Silva advises others to try hard to make themselves understood in the United States. She says she has learned that most Americans are happy to help others speak English.

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VOICE ONE:

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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