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Asian Countries Top International School Test


Hello again and welcome back. This is As It Is, from VOA Learning English. I’m June Simms.

Millions of people around the world want to learnAmerican English. In recent years, more and morepeople have set out to learn not just the standardlanguage of the United States, but its informal speechas well. Today, we hear about slang and “street talk”coming up later in the show.

But first, the Organization for Economic Cooperationand Development released its latest report on the stateof education around the world. Faith Lapidus has thestory.

Asian Countries Top International School Test

The Program for International Student Assessment tested students in 65countries on three subjects: mathematics, reading and science.

Asian countries outperformed the rest of the world in math. The United Stateshad below average test scores, with no change from earlier tests.

In fact, the 15-year-olds from Shanghai rated at a level of two and one-halfyears of schooling above the top students in the United States.

The highest math scores were in Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and South Korea. The next five were Macao, Japan, Liechtenstein, Belgiumand Switzerland. Organizers say the higher scores resulted from parentalinvolvement, better teachers and higher expectations.

Jenny Jung has attended schools in South Korea and the United States. Shesays her classes in South Korea lasted from 8 o’clock in the morning until 10 at night. Then she often met with a teacher for a private lesson.

“It’s very competitive there because it’s a relative grading system. So insteadof like here, it’s an absolute grading system, where if you get over a 90, youget an A. If you get over an 80, you get a B. But in Korea, only like the toppercentages can get an A.”

In the new report, the U.S. rated below average in math, and close to averagein reading and science.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he wants to increase early childhoodeducation and get more high quality teachers.

“Virtually every one of the high performing nations attracts their teachers from the top 30 percent of the college graduating class and many only from the top10 percent.”

Mr. Duncan has called on policy makers to make the right choices.

“We know intellectually what the right thing is to do. What we have lacked is the political will and the sense of urgency to take education to the next level.”

But the study shows money might not be the only answer. The US spendsabout $115,000 to educate each child. That is more than most countries. The Slovak Republic spends less than half that amount, but it and the US hadsimilar test scores.

Angel Gurria is the secretary general of the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development. He warns the United States of what mighthappen if the scores do not rise.

“It shows that we have a lot of homework. It shows that somebody else isdoing much better than us and if this continues, over the years, they are goingto take away our cheese. Because this translates into productivity, ittranslates into competitiveness, it translates into exports, it translates intojobs, it translates into well-being. So this is not about just comparing thegrades of students.”

Some observers have criticized the study for comparing small areas of theworld to large countries. They also say the test lacks an examination ofcreative or critical thinking.

The one area in which U.S. students rated highest was confidence in theirmath abilities. The job now for educators is to make those feelings carry overinto test scores. I’m Faith Lapidus.

And I’m June Simms. You are listening to As It Is from VOA Learning English.

Demand Grows for Classes in English Slang


A growing number of foreigners want to learnAmerican slang.

Many people who learn English as a second language think they have a goodunderstanding of it, that is, until they watch an American TV show or speak tosomeone from the United States. Then they realize there is a lot they do notunderstand. Some are coming to the United States to learn American slang,which is rarely taught in textbooks back home.

Most people come to Venice Beach in Californiaseeking sun and entertainment. But, for Hussain alShahri of Saudi Arabia and his classmates, the beachis a classroom. Their teachers are strangers theymeet on the beach.

“I have an assignment to talk with people, nativespeakers like you, to know and to learn how the peoplein public or on the street talk. So I want to ask youabout a couple of words, if you do not have a problemto answer me what does it mean in slang.”

Al Shahri is taking a class on American “street talk” and slang at the Universityof California Los Angeles. Field trips like this one, combined with classroomdiscussions, make up most of his learning experience.

“If you want to know this culture, you have to communicate with people andsocialize. So slang language is the only way to communicate and socializewith people.”

Knowing the culture also means learning from American media, says “StreetTalk” instructor Ryan Finnegan.

“American movies are global and American music. So they hear these words, and they hear them used a lot, and they see maybe people laughing at thosewords, and they want to understand what’s funny about that.”

Ryan Finnegan uses TV shows to teach his students slang. Student ZhangJiu Hua says the English she learned in China was very different.

“It makes my English style more academic and formal and a little bit stiff. I don’t want to be that way.”

Zhang says she is now able to speak more casually and use humor withAmerican slang and idioms. She is also learning about differences betweenChinese and American culture.

“There is a slang I love: ‘drop dead gorgeous.’ In my culture, I still rememberwhen I was a child my parents told me ‘don’t use dead. It’s very rude andunlucky.’ And when I say that word ‘drop dead gorgeous,’ I’m curious. Can Iuse that? Actually I love that word.”

Finnegan says there are some issues to teaching slang.

“Slang is extremely regional and extremely dynamic. So the slang from evenone year ago is different from the slang of right now.”

Judy Tanka develops learning plans at UCLA Extension’s American LanguageCenter. She says instructional materials need to improve as demand forslang and idiom classes grows.

“A lot of materials get outdated very quickly and it’s very expensive to republishbooks frequently with updates, and this is why online materials will be verypopular.”

With a working knowledge of American slang, Zhang Jiu Hua will return toChina and use what she has learned in her career. Hussain al Shahri will bebetter able to fit into American life as he continues his education in the UnitedStates.

That is As It Is. I’m June Simms.

Have a question or comment about this show? We would love to hear fromyou. Email us at learningenglish@voanews.com.

VOA world news is coming up at the beginning of the hour, Universal Time.

内容来自 VOA英语学习网https://www.chinavoa.com/show-8246-229491-1.html
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