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How to Use "Voice of America" to Learn English

excerpted from The Every Day Language Learner | Aaron G. Meyers


Voice of America (VOA) is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government.

I know that sounds a bit scary, but the fact of the matter is, VOA is a great resource for language learners everywhere.

According to the VOA charter, VOA is to serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news which is accurate, objective and comprehensive.

I'll let you decided if VOA does a good job of living up to that charter, but regardless of objectivity and accuracy, VOA is a great resource for learning any of the 43 languages in which broadcasts are produced regularly.

Why Is VOA Helpful

VOA is helpful because it is presents readers with copious amounts of comprehensible input.  

Most articles are about common current events and so for most, will include valuable background knowledge that will open up the content to the reader.

Many of the articles are carried across all of the languages.  This allows learners to first read the story in their native language and then to read in the target language.

VOA is also focused on presenting most written articles with an audio companion with which learners can read along as they listen. Most articles are short and to the point making them easily digestible in short spurts of study.

There are many news programs online which can be watched again and again.

Much of the audio content is also available via podcast.

Most of the VOA channels also have Youtube channels which carry both current events and special interest stories.

The search button coupled with VOA’s prolific creation of content allows you to find content about topics you are interested in and passionate about.


Summer Holiday or Summer Vacation?


So how was your summer vacation?  
Did you have a good holiday?
Where did you spend your holiday?
How long was your vacation?


Recently a student asked me about the difference between a summer holiday and a summer vacation.

The two expressions denote differences in British and American English.

In the United Kingdom, a "holiday" is when you take time off from work or school; it is what Americans call "vacation".

A British English speaker says: "I am going to Spain for summer holiday."

An American English speaker says: "I am going to Spain for summer vacation."

On the other hand, in the U.S.A., the term "holiday" is also be used, but it designates a day of special religious or national significance when the government and some businesses are closed.  

It is not only in talking about holidays and vacations that the British and Americans differ.  The two countries are also very different when it comes to how much time is spent on holiday and vacation.

A review of international vacation and holiday laws around the world found that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays.

In fact, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.  In 2011, the average American worker earned 14 vacation, but only took 12 of them.  
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, workers in the UK are entitled to 28 days of annual leave.
How much paid annual leave are workers entitled to you in your country?  
Please leave a comment, but before you do, take a look at these expressions that you can use to talk about taking time off from work.
  • to take a day off : not to go to work on a usual work day
  • to be off : to not work on the authorized day off
  • to be out of the office : to not be in the office
  • to take unpaid leave : to be off work without pay
  • to get paid annual leave : to be off work with pay
  • to take a personal day : to take a day off for unspecified personal reasons
  • to take a sick day : to take a day off when you are sick
  • to be on sick leave | to take sick leave : to take several days, weeks, or months off when sick
  • to be on maternity leave : the period a mother is legally authorized to be absent from work before and after the birth of a baby
  • to be on parental leave : the time that a parent is allowed to spend away from work to take care of a baby
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