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Voice of America (VOA) building in Washington, D.C.

VOA Special English

Voice of America (VOA) is a multimedia broadcaster funded by the U.S. government that broadcasts news and information to a world-wide audience. VOA has a Learning English website for people who are interested in learning and practicing English. This website provides newsworthy articles with audio files, videos, and related quizzes for its users. The site is broken down into different sections which include audio, video, news and topics, practice, and learning resources. Each section provides the tools necessary to practice reading, listening, writing, and comprehending the English language.

The News and Topics section of the VOA website covers a variety of topics including World, America, History, Entertainment, Business & Economics, and Science & Technology. Within each topic the site provides a numerous articles that cover a variety of subjects. All articles include audio files of narrators reading the articles. These audio files can be listened to online or downloaded on personal devices. The written articles conveniently offer the option for users to click on words to get their definitions. Each article also contains short quizzes that tests vocabulary and understanding.

The audio section of the VOA website offers many audio podcasts from different segments of U.S. News. These audio segments include As It Is, American Mosaic, In the News, The Making of a Nation, Science in the News, This Is America, and Words and their Stories. While As It Is focuses on daily issues in the news from the U.S. and the world, American Mosaic covers weekly news on American music, pop culture, and life. In the News gives an analysis of the big weekly news points. The Making of a Nation focuses on U.S. history and how the country has grown and developed. Science in the News looks into the world of science, technology, and medicine. This is America covers major issues in American life and society and explores different places in the U.S. The segment Words and their Stories seeks to give explanations on American English idioms and expressions that are difficult for foreign speakers to understand.

The video section of the VOA website contains a handful of resourceful videos that fall under different video programs and cover a range of topics in English. The segments under the video section include Learning English TV, English in a Minute, News Words, and TALK2US. Learning English TV is a news program that focuses on technology, education, agriculture, economics, and health topics. Each video contains caption subtitles to help users read, watch, and learn English. English in a Minute is a series that focuses on teaching American English idioms and expressions only in a minute. Some examples include “cut to the chase,” “get cold feet,” and “keep your chin up.” News Words is a program series that explains words commonly used in the news such as sectarian, legislation, turmoil, etc. TALK2US is an interactive video show that allows the audience to call-in on Skype to practice their conversational English. For example, one video shows the host teaching “Common English Mistakes of A, An, and The” to English learners from Algeria and Brazil on Skype.

VOA also provides useful learning resources for its users such as the Learning English Word Book, the VOA Pronunciation Guide, and an online game called Trace Effects. The Learning English Word Book provides over a hundred pages of commonly used words, articles, definitions, and sentence examples. The Word Book also provides a list of commonly used expressions, months of the year, organs of the body, computer terms, business terms, and a lot more. The VOA Pronunciation Guide is a database of over 7,000 names that have attached audio files. The purpose of this database is to help people be able to correctly pronounce challenging names in the news. Trace Effects is an online video game targeted for players 12 to 16. The game is about Trace, a university student from the year 2045, who has travelled back in time to the present and must complete challenging missions in order to get home. This game was made to not only help younger people learn English but also to help expose them to American society. The game features chapters of game play, activities, point-based scoring system, American English dictionary, and much more.

From audio podcasts to interactive videos and games, VOA provides the tools necessary to not only learn and practice English but to also learn more about American culture. While the audio section includes audio podcasts from a wide variety of topics, the video section provides useful videos that focus on American English and culture. VOA also provides helpful learning resources for people who are learning English and want to better their English skills. Through its multitude of resources, VOA takes a highly interactive and unique approach for English learners.

Photo Credit: Chris Phan
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