Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm
Barbara Klein. This week on our program, we tell you about some fiftieth
anniversaries that are being observed this year.
In nineteen fifty-nine, an unusual art museum opened in
New York City. What was unusual was not so much the art but the museum.
Most museums lead visitors through a series of rooms.
But the Guggenheim Museum is round. Spaces flow smoothly from one area to
another. In place of steps, a ramp goes round and round past the art on the
different levels. The center of the museum is open, so people can look up toward
the roof or down toward the ground floor.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank
Lloyd Wright. He died six months before it opened. Not everyone liked the
unusual design. But it produced one of the most recognizable museums in the
fiftieth anniversary exhibition will honor the architect and his work. From May
fifteenth till August twenty-third, the Guggenheim in New York will present "Frank
Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward."
exhibition will show sixty-four projects that he designed, including homes, public
buildings and religious spaces. More than two hundred of his original drawings
will be shown. The Guggenheim says the aim is to celebrate the basic idea
behind Wright's architecture -- the sense of freedom in interior space.
The Guggenheim opened in October of nineteen
fifty-nine. That same month, the Voice of America began to broadcast special
programs for English learners. Some language experts thought the idea would
fail. But millions of listeners welcomed Special English.
English is read one-third slower than VOA's other English programs. The slower
speed is combined with an extra effort to make the writing easy to understand.
of the words come from a vocabulary list that gets updated about every ten years.
It began with one thousand words. Today it has about five hundred more. But
writers can use any other words they need to report a story if the meaning is clear.
VOA Special English is an example of a controlled
language. Another example is called Simplified Technical English. This language
was developed to make it easier to understand and translate documents used at aircraft
repair centers around the world.
English is popular because it helps people learn American English while they
learn about world news, science, American life and other subjects. The first
broadcast was ten minutes of news to
Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
was no special announcement. Announcer Paul Parks just said, "Here is the
news in Special English." Feature programs were added later, starting with
Special English versions of short stories by famous writers. That program,
AMERICAN STORIES, can be heard each Saturday.
Today, Special English writers do a lot more original
reporting and the programs are more lively. But one thing has never changed.
Special English has a loyal following -- in homes, cars and classrooms
throughout the world.
people are second-generation fans whose own children are now growing up with
Special English. And not just on radio, but also TV and the Web: voaspecialenglish.com
is one of VOA's most heavily visited sites.
can read and listen to programs, write comments, find shows they missed and
sign up to receive programs by weekly e-mail. They can download MP3s and
podcasts and access the Word Book. And they can watch videos in Special
English. There is also voaspecialenglish.com/mobile. And Special English is
expanding into social media. The goal, as always, is to follow English learners
wherever their interests take them.
This year is the fiftieth birthday of Barbie.
The doll first appeared at the toy fair in New York on March ninth, nineteen fifty-nine.
Its creator was Ruth Handler, an
American businesswoman. She and her husband Elliott along with Harold
"Matt" Matson started the toy company Mattel. She named the new doll
after their daughter Barbara. She based the design on a German doll named Bild
first Barbie wore a black and white swimsuit and had her hair in a ponytail. She
looked and seemed very grown up. But any concerns that parents would not want to
buy it for little girls were soon proved wrong.
Mattel sold three hundred thousand Barbie dolls in the
first year at a price of three dollars. Today, a fifty-year-old Barbie in good
condition might cost more than twenty-seven thousand dollars.
have represented fifty different nationalities and are sold in one hundred
fifty countries. Mattel says ninety percent of girls in the United States between
the ages of three and ten own at least one Barbie doll. It says girls between
the ages of three and six own an average of about twelve.
Barbie has faced recent competition from Bratz dolls.
Barbie has also faced her share of critics.
well-known example was when women's education groups objected to a talking
Barbie that declared, among other things, "Math class is tough!" Mattel
agreed to change it. That was back in nineteen ninety-two, the same year as the
first Barbie for President doll. The dolls, though designed in California, were
produced in China. Because of that, some people joked that Barbie could not
legally become president of the United States.
Saudi Arabia has banned Barbie dolls. And a lawmaker in
the American state of West Virginia would like to do the same. Last month, he proposed
banning sales of Barbie and other dolls that influence girls to put too much
importance on physical beauty.
Some people say Barbie is an unhealthy role model for
young girls. Robin Gerber disagrees. She wrote a book about Barbie. She points
out dolls like scientist Barbie and race car driver Barbie. She says people who
criticize Barbie should tell girls the story of the businesswoman who created
her. She says Ruth Handler wanted the dolls to help girls think about what they
wanted to do with their lives.
(MUSIC: "That'll Be The Day")
Singer Buddy Holly died in February of nineteen
fifty-nine. He was just twenty-two, but he was already being called a musical
Buddy Holly was killed in the crash of a small plane
while on a singing tour in the Midwest. The crash also took the lives of the pilot
and two other singers -- J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, and Ritchie
Valens. He had a hit with this song, "La Bamba."
The plane went down after the singers had performed at
the Surf Ballroom in the small town of Clear Lake, Iowa.
year, some of those who performed with them that night gathered at the Surf to
remember. The gathering, held over several days, was called "Fifty Winters
Later." It included educational programs, dance lessons, speeches and
theatrical performances. It also included a ceremony to declare the Surf
Ballroom a rock and roll landmark. The events were organized by the Surf
Ballroom and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Guests included Buddy Holly's wife, Ritchie Valens'
brothers and sisters and the Big Bopper's son.
The day of the plane crash -- February third -- is known in
rock and roll history as "the day the music died." We end with a song
inspired by that sad day. Here is Don McLean with his number one hit from
nineteen seventy-two, "American Pie."
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara
And I'm Steve
Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
VOA Special English was first broadcast October 19, 1959.