Thursday, January 17, 2013

"The Mobile Phone Revolution" from VOA

This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

Falling prices are fueling growth in high-speed Internet services, especially in developing countries. Last week the International Telecommunication Union released its "Measuring the Information Society 2011" report. The ITU, part of the United Nations, compared access, use and skills in one hundred fifty-two countries.

The report says South Korea has the world's most developed economy in information and communication technology, or ICT. Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland were also among the top five in the ICT Development Index. The index compares two thousand eight and two thousand ten scores.

Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Vietnam and Russia had some of the biggest improvements between those years.

Susan Teltscher is head of the ICT Data and Statistics Division at the International Telecommunication Union in Switzerland. She says most of the growth in this industry has come from one source.

SUSAN TELTSCHER: “Mobile broadband is now leading the growth race among the different ICT indicators -- much higher than the other key indicators that we look at, like regular mobile phone subscriptions, fixed telephone or fixed broadband. Mobile broadband is really the most dynamic sector right now. And the good news is that it’s also starting to grow in developing countries.”

Mobile broadband subscriptions reached eight hundred seventy-two million by the end of last year. Three hundred million of those are in developing countries. Ms. Teltscher says growth in these countries can help reduce the digital divide with wealthier societies.

SUSAN TELTSCHER: “If we can bring Internet over the mobile phones, then we can really make a difference in terms of improving Internet access also in developing countries.”

She says falling prices are adding to the growth.

SUSAN TELTSCHER: “Especially in the broadband area, the prices dropped by over fifty percent between two thousand eight and two thousand ten -- which is a very encouraging finding because this was primarily drops in the developing countries."

Even so, the report says people in many low-income countries are still paying too much for high-speed Internet connections. In Africa, for example, broadband service for a home or office cost almost three times an average monthly income last year. That was down from six and a half times as much in two thousand eight.

Also, there are big differences in broadband speed and quality from country to country.

National levels of technology development have traditionally been closely linked to national income levels. But Susan Teltscher at the ITU says a strong public policy on technology has made a difference in South Korea.

SUSAN TELTSCHER: “If you look at their income level and what they have been achieving in terms of ICT development, it’s actually higher than what you would expect given their national income.”

South Korea has the fourth largest economy in Asia.

And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at I'm Steve Ember.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Christmas Cuckoo" by Frances Browne (adapted)

A long time ago, there was village in the North Country. There, people were poor, because their fields were barren, and they didn't have much to sell; but the poorest of them all were two brothers: Scrub and Spare, both shoemakers. Their shack, was very small. They had a fireplace, but never enough wood. They were good friends even though their business wasn't very successful.

Then, a new shoemaker arrived in the village. He had lived in the big city and had been successful there. He set up his new shop in a house with two windows. The villagers soon found out that the new shoemaker was better and cheaper than Scrub and Spare, so now the brothers had no customers at all.

The season had been wet and cold, neither their barely nor their cabbages grew very well. So the brothers were poor that winter, and when Christmas came, they had nothing to eat but one barley loaf and a piece of old bacon. Also because the snow was deep, they could find no firewood.

Their little hovel stood next to a bleak landscape, now all white and silent. But that empty landscape had once been a forest. It contained great roots of old trees. One of these roots lay near their door, poking above snow, and Spare said to his brother: --

"Let's chop up that root for firewood; the work will make us warm."

"No," said Scrub, "it's not right to chop wood on Christmas; besides, that root is too hard to be broken with any axe."

"Hard or not, we must have a fire," replied Spare. "Come on, help me in with it. Even though we're poor, nobody in the village will have a log as big as ours."

So both brothers worked very hard, and between pulling and pushing, the great old root was finally dragged into the fireplace, and was beginning to crackle and blaze with red flames.

Happily, the shoemakers sat down to their bread and bacon. The door was shut, because there was nothing but cold moonlight and snow outside; but the house, decorated with fir branches and holly, looked cheerful as the fire flared up and warmed them.
Then suddenly from out the hot root they heard: "Cuckoo! cuckoo!" just as if the bird was announcing the arrival of spring. Out of the deep hole at the side of the root, which the fire had not reached, flew a large, gray cuckoo. It flew to the dinner table and stood there facing them. The two shoemakers were surprised to see the cuckoo and even more surprised to hear it speak.

"Good gentlemen, what season is this?"

"It's Christmas," said Spare.

"Then a Merry Christmas to you!" said the cuckoo. "I went to sleep in the hollow of that old root one evening last summer, and never woke until the heat of your fire made me think it was summer again. But now since you have burned my home, let me stay in your house until the spring comes around, I only want a hole to sleep in, and when I go on my travels next summer. I will bring you some present for your trouble."

"Stay and welcome," said Spare, while Scrub sat wondering if it were something bad or not.

"I'll make you a good warm hole in the straw of the ceiling" said Spare. "But you must be hungry after that long sleep, -- here is a slice of barley bread. Come, enjoy Christmas with us.!"
The cuckoo ate up the slice, drank water from a brown jug, and then flew into a snug hole which Spare scooped for it in the straw ceiling of the little house.

Scrub said he was afraid it wouldn't be lucky; but because it just always slept and the days passed, he forgot his fears.
So the snow melted, the heavy rains came, the cold grew less, the days lengthened, and one sunny morning the brothers were awakened by the cuckoo shouting its own cry to let them know the spring had come.

"Now I'm going on my travels," said the bird, "over the world to tell people of the spring. Give me another slice of barley bread to help me on my journey, and tell me what present I shall bring you at the year's end."

Scrub would have been angry with his brother for cutting so large a slice, their store of barley being low, but his mind was occupied with what present it would be best to ask for.
"There are two trees next to the well that lies at the world's end," said the cuckoo; "one of them is called the golden tree.Its leaves are all of beaten gold. Every winter they fall into the well with a sound like coin, and I don't know what becomes of them. As for the other, it is always green like a laurel. Some call it the wise, and some the happy tree. Its leaves never fall, but those that get one of them keep a happy heart in spite of all misfortunes, and can make themselves as merry in a hovel as in a palace."

"Good master cuckoo, bring me a leaf off that tree!" cried Spare.

"Now, brother, don't be a fool!" said Scrub; "think of the leaves of beaten gold! Dear master cuckoo, bring me one of them!"
Before another word could be spoken, the cuckoo had flown out of the open door, and was shouting its spring cry over the meadow.
So the seasons came and passed; spring, summer, harvest, and winter. Scrub and Spare grew so poor and ragged that their old neighbors forgot to invite them to wedding feasts or parties, and the brothers thought the cuckoo had forgotten them, too. Then, on the morning of April 1st, they heard a hard beak knocking at their door, and a voice crying: --

"Cuckoo! cuckoo! Let me in with my presents!"

Spare ran to open the door, and in came the cuckoo, carrying on one side of its bill a golden leaf larger than that of any tree in the North Country; and in the other side of its bill, one like that of the common laurel, only it had a fresher green.
"Here," it said, giving the gold to Scrub and the green to Spare, "it is a long journey from the world's end. Give me a slice of barley bread, for I must tell the North Country that the spring has come."

Scrub gladly gave the cuckoo a thick slice, though it was cut from their last loaf. So much gold had never been in the shoemaker's hands before, and he could not help teasing his brother.

"See the wisdom of my choice," he said, holding up the large leaf of gold. "As for yours, that laurel leaf is no better than something you can pick off a hedge. I wonder why that sensible bird carried it so far."

"Good shoemaker," cried the cuckoo, finishing its slice, "you should express your opinions more cautiously. If your brother is disappointed this time, I go on the same journey every year, and because you let me stay in your house, I'm glad to bring each of you whichever leaf you desire."

"Darling cuckoo," cried Scrub, "bring me a golden one."
And Spare, looking up from the green leaf on which he gazed as though it were a crown-jewel, said: --

"Be sure to bring me one from the merry tree."
And away flew the cuckoo.

"Who does this?" said Scrub. "Who throws away such an opportunity for getting rich?" Your happy leaves won't do a thing for you in the middle of these rags and poverty!"
But Spare just laughed. "All that glitters isn't gold," he said. So Scrub, got angry, and taking his shoemaker tools and his golden leaf, he left the little house and went to tell the villagers about Spare's silly choice.

The new shoemaker immediately took him into partnership; the greatest people sent him their shoes to mend. Fairfeather, a beautiful single lady, caught his eye, and that summer they were married, with a grand wedding feast, at which the whole village danced except Spare, who was not invited, because the bride could not bear his low-mindedness, and his brother thought he was a disgrace to the family.

Scrub and his new wife bought a fine house near the new shoemaker's. There Scrub mended shoes to everybody's satisfaction, and he and Fairfeather had everything they wanted, but they were still discontent, because in order to pay for their new lifestyle, the golden leaf had to be broken and sold off for cash, so the last bit was gone before the cuckoo came with another.

Spare lived on in the old house, and worked in the cabbage garden. Every day Spare's coat grew more ragged, and the shack more worn down, but people noticed that Spare never looked sad or sour. And the amazing thing was that, from the time anyone began to keep his company, he or she grew kinder, happier, and more content.

Every first of April the cuckoo came tapping at their doors with the golden leaf for Scrub, and the green for Spare. Fairfeather wanted to entertain the cuckoo with a real feast, because she thought she could persuade the bird to bring two golden leaves instead of one; but the cuckoo flew away to eat barley bread with Spare, because it liked the old shack where it slept very comfortably from Christmas until spring.

Scrub spent the golden leaves, and remained always dissatisfied; and Spare kept the happy ones.

But one day in the harvest time an official of the King, who was very depressed, chanced to meet Spare by a meadow stream, and had a conversation with him. How it was nobody could tell, but from that hour the official's sadness seem to lift off his shoulders. He forgot all his troubles, and began to laugh at jokes for the first time. He also started hunting, fishing, and giving money to the poor.

This strange story spread through the North Country, and more people began to visit Spare's modest shack; rich men who had lost their money, poor men who had lost their friends, beauties who had grown old, writers and poets who had gone out of fashion, all came to talk with Spare, and, whatever their troubles had been, all went home happy and smiling.
The rich gave him presents, the poor gave him thanks. Spare's coat was no longer ragged, he had bacon with his cabbage, and the villagers began to think he was all right after all.
The official told the court about Spare. There were a great many discontented people there; and the king was upset because a neighboring wealthy princess would not marry his oldest son.
So a royal messenger was sent to Spare, commanding him to report to the court immediately.

His coming caused great surprise there. Everybody wondered what the king could see in such a common-looking man; but after they talked for half an hour, the wealthy princess was forgotten and orders were given that a feast for everybody should be spread in the banquet hall.

The princes, the great lords and ladies, and the ministers of state, always consulted with Spare, and the more they talked the lighter their hearts grew, so that such changes had never been seen at court.

The lords forgot their arguments and the ladies their jealousies, the princes and ministers made friends among themselves, and the judges began to make decisions that were fair to both rich and poor.

As for Spare, he had an apartment assigned him in the palace, and a seat at the king's table. One sent him rich robes, and another costly jewels; but in the middle of all his new wealth he still wore an old shabby jacket, and continued to live at the king's court, happy and honored, and making all others happy and content.


1. Scrub and Spare were very close to each other until _____________________ .
a: a new shoemaker took away their business
b: Scrub married Ms. Fairfeather
c: Spare showed little interest in the gold leaf
d: the cuckoo was found in the root they dragged into the house

2. The cuckoo gave the brothers presents because ________________ .
a: it wanted show its gratitude to them for giving it a home
b: it hoped that they would make more holes in their roof for other cuckoos
c: it saw that they were poor and it wanted them to be wealthy
d: it had a lot of objects it needed to get rid of

3. "All that glitters is not gold" means "___________________."
a: "Besides gold, there are other precious metals"
b: "Gold glitters, but so does water when it reflects sunlight"
c: "There is more to life than making money"
d: "You and I can be rich if we work very hard and believe in Capitalism"

4. The cuckoo flew to a well at the end of the world. There were two trees, and two types of leaves: ________________________ .
a: one gold and one oak
b: one oak and one laurel
c: one gold and one laurel
d: one laurel and one maple

5. Fairfeather didn't invite Spare to the wedding because she thought _____________________ .
a: he was "low-minded"
b: he was too wealthy
c: he was envious of his brother
d: he competed unfairly with his brother

6. No matter how much gold Fairfeather and Scrub had, ____________________ .
a: they continued to lose money
b: they still couldn't pay their mortgage
c: they were still dissatisfied
d: they envied Spare's simple lifestyle

7. After talking to Spare by the meadow stream, the count became much happier. The reason why he became happier is __________________________ .
a: because Spare told him an amusing story
b: because Spare told him to forget his troubles
c: because Spare said that there was no reason to be sad
d: unknown

8. The cuckoo preferred to stay in Spare's house because __________________________
a: it liked Spare better
b: it was accustomed to its cozy hole in the ceiling
c: it was allergic to Fairfeather's perfume
d: it didn't like the fancy food Scrub and Fairfeather ate

9. The cuckoo came out of his hole in the root because _________________ .
a: it wanted to meet the brothers
b: it wanted to change the brothers' lives
c: it wanted to find a gold leaf
d: the heat from the fire made it think summer had arrived

10. Many wealthy and famous people sent Spare rich robes but he still wore his old shabby jacket because ___________________________ .
a: appearing wealthy didn't mean very much to him
b: the rich clothing didn't fit him
c: the jewelry gave him a skin rash
d: he could only make people happy if he wore his shabby jacket

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Pecos Bill" from VOA

Now, the Special English Program AMERICAN STORIES.


Today we tell a traditional American story called a "tall tale." A tall tale is a story about a person who is larger than life. The descriptions in the story are exaggerated – much greater than in real life. Long ago, the people who settled in undeveloped areas in America first told tall tales. After a hard day's work, people gathered to tell each other funny stories.

Cowboys around a campfire
Pecos Bill was a larger than life hero of the American West. No one knows who first told stories about Pecos Bill. Cowboys may have invented the stories. Others say Edward O'Reilly invented the character in stories he wrote for The Century Magazine in the early nineteen hundreds. The stories were collected in a book called "The Saga of Pecos Bill" published in nineteen twenty-three.

Another writer, James Cloyd Bowman, wrote an award-winning children's book called "Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time." The book won the Newbery Honor in nineteen thirty-eight.

Pecos Bill was not a historical person. But he does represent the spirit of early settlers in the American West. His unusual childhood and extraordinary actions tell about people who believed there were no limits to what they could do. Now, here is Barbara Klein with our story.



Pecos Bill had one of the strangest childhoods a boy ever had. It all started after his father decided that there was no longer enough room in east Texas for his family.

"Pack up, Ma!" he cried. "Neighbors movin' in fifty miles away! It's getting' too crowded!"

So they loaded up a wagon with all their things. Now some say they had fifteen children while others say eighteen. However many there were, the children were louder than thunder. And as they set off across the wild country of west Texas, their mother and father could hardly hear a thing.

Pecos River
Now, as they came to the Pecos River, the wagon hit a big rock. The force threw little Bill out of the wagon and he landed on the sandy ground. Mother did not know Bill was gone until she gathered the children for the midday meal. Mother set off with some of the children to look for Bill, but they could find no sign of him.

Well, some people say Bill was just a baby when his family lost him. Others say he was four years old. But all agree that a group of animals called coyotes found Bill and raised him. Bill did all the things those animals did, like chase lizards and howl at the moon. He became as good a coyote as any.


Now, Bill spent seventeen years living like a coyote until one day a cowboy rode by on his horse. Some say the cowboy was one of Bill's brothers. Whoever he was, he took one look at Bill and asked, "What are you?"

Bill was not used to human language. At first, he could not say anything. The cowboy repeated his question. This time, Bill said, "varmint."

That is a word used for any kind of wild animal.

"No you aren't," said the cowboy.

"Yes, I am," said Bill. "I have fleas."

"Lots of people have fleas," said the cowboy. "You don't have a tail."

"Yes, I do," said Bill.

"Show it to me then," the cowboy said.

Bill looked at his backside and realized that he did not have a tail like the other coyotes. "Well, what am I then?" asked Bill.


"You're a cowboy! So start acting like one!" the cowboy cried out. Well that was all Bill needed to hear. He said goodbye to his coyote friends and left to join the world of humans.


Now, Pecos Bill was a good cowboy. Still, he hungered for adventure. One day he heard about a rough group of men. There is some debate over what the group was called. But one storyteller calls it the "Hell's Gate Gang."

So Bill set out across the rough country to find this gang of men. Well, Bill's horse soon was injured so Bill had to carry it for a hundred miles. Then Bill met a rattlesnake fifty feet long. The snake made a hissing noise and was not about to let Bill pass. But after a tense minute, Bill beat the snake until it surrendered. He felt sorry for the varmint, though, and wrapped it around his arm.

After Bill walked another hundred miles, he came across an angry mountain lion. There was a huge battle, but Bill took control of the big cat and put his saddle on it. He rode that mountain lion all the way to the camp of the Hell's Gate Gang.

Now, when Bill saw the gang he shouted out, "Who's the boss around here?"

A huge cowboy, nine feet tall, took one look at Bill and said in a shaky voice, "I was the boss. But you are the boss from here on in."

Mountain Lion
With his gang, Pecos Bill was able to create the biggest ranch in the Southwest. Bill and his men had so many cattle that they needed all of New Mexico to hold them. Arizona was the pasture where the cattle ate grass.

Pecos Bill invented the art of being a cowboy. He invented the skill of throwing a special rope called a lasso over a cow's head to catch wandering cattle.

Some say he used a rattlesnake for a lasso. Others say he made a lasso so big that it circled the whole Earth.

Bill invented the method of using a hot branding iron to permanently put the mark of a ranch on a cow's skin. That helped stop people from stealing cattle. Some say he invented cowboy songs to help calm the cattle and make the cowboy's life easier. But he is also said to have invented tarantulas and scorpions as jokes. Cowboys have had trouble with those poisonous creatures ever since.

Now, Pecos Bill could ride anything that ever was. So, as some tell the story, there came a storm bigger than any other. It all happened during the worst drought the West had ever seen. It was so dry that horses and cows started to dry up and blow away in the wind. So when Bill saw the windstorm, he got an idea. The huge tornado kicked across the land like a wild bronco. But Bill jumped on it without a thought.

Pecos Bill rides a tornado
He rode that tornado across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, all the time squeezing the rain out of it to save the land from drought. When the storm was over, Bill fell off the tornado. He landed in California. He left a hole so deep that to this day it is known as Death Valley.


Now, Bill had a horse named Widow Maker. He got that name because any man who rode that horse would be thrown off and killed and his wife would become a widow. No one could ride that horse but Bill.

And Widow Maker, in the end, caused the biggest problem for Pecos Bill. You see, one day Bill saw a woman. Not just any woman, but a wild, red- haired woman, riding a giant catfish down the Rio Grande River.

Her name was Slue-foot Sue. And Bill fell in love with her at first sight. Well, Bill would not rest until he had asked for her hand in marriage. And Slue-foot Sue accepted.

19th Century Bustle
On their wedding day, Pecos Bill dressed in his best buckskin suit. And Sue wore a beautiful white dress with a huge steel-spring bustle in the back. It was the kind of big dress that many women wore in those days — the bigger the better.

Now, after the marriage ceremony Slue-foot Sue got a really bad idea. She decided that she wanted to ride Widow Maker. Bill begged her not to try. But she had her mind made up.

Well, the second she jumped on the horse's back he began to kick and buck like nothing anyone had ever seen. He sent Sue flying so high that she sailed clear over the new moon.

She fell back to Earth, but the steel-spring bustle just bounced her back up as high as before.

Now, there are many different stories about what happened next. One story says Bill saw that Sue was in trouble. She would keep bouncing forever if nothing was done. So he took his rope out -- though some say it was a huge rattlesnake -- and lassoed Sue to catch her and bring her down to Earth. Only, she just bounced him back up with her.

Somehow the two came to rest on the moon. And that's where they stayed. Some people say they raised a family up there. Their children were as loud and wild as Bill and Sue were in their younger days. People say the sound of thunder that sometimes carries over the dry land around the Pecos River is nothing more than Pecos Bill's family laughing up a storm.


(MUSIC: "(There'll Never Be Another) Pecos Bill")


This tall tale of Pecos Bill was adapted for Special English and produced by Mario Ritter. Your storyteller was Barbara Klein. I'm Steve Ember.


1. Pecos Bill was _________________________ .
a: a historical person
b: a character in a tall tale
c: an early settler
d: a story teller

2. When, at the Pecos River, the wagon hit a rock, little Bill ________________ .
a: got angry and threw the huge rock out of the state of Texas
b: repaired the wagon using mud and bird droppings
c: was thrown out of the wagon
d: asked for another rock to play with

3. A "Varmint" is a cowboy word for ___________________________ .
a: a human raised by coyotes
b: a man unable to speak a human language
c: a person with a flea problem
d: a wild animal

4. Pecos Bill was appointed boss of the Hell's Gate Gang because _____________ .
a: he rode into their camp riding on a mountain lion
b: he beat up a rattlesnake and turned it into a rope
c: he rode a tornado all the way to San Francisco and back
d: he carried his injured horse one hundred miles.

5. Pecos Bill didn't invent __________________________ .
a: the lasso
b: the tarantula
c: the branding iron
d: the bustle

6. Pecos Bill and Slue-foot Sue traveled to the moon ___________________ .
a: by rocketship
b: by hot air balloon
c: by bouncing after Sue fell off the Widow Maker
d: by airplane

7. Pecos Bill fell in love with Slue-foot Sue when _____________________ .
a: he saw her riding a dolphin in the river
b: he made eye contact with her at a cowboy dance
c: he stood with her on a patio looking at a full moon
d: he realized she had been raised by coyotes too

8. Pecos Bill's father wanted to leave East Texas because he felt that _____________________ .
a: there was too much dust
b: the coyotes were eating his cattle
c: it was getting much too crowded since folks were moving in fifty miles away
d: the cowboy songs were as loud as thunder

9. Pecos Bill and Slue-foot Sue ______________________________ .
a: didn't get along very well
b: got married
c: met each other on the moon
d: moved back to East Texas to raise a family

10. A tall tale is ____________________________ .
a: a story that only tall people can understand
b: a story shared between cowboys that is humorous and exaggerated
c: a story about coyotes
d: a story that is written in order to be made into a motion picture

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Index to American Short Stories

"A Child's Bath" by American Impressionist,
Mary Cassatt, 1893

"A Princess of Mars, Part Two" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Last week we brought you the first of four programs called "A Princess of Mars." Our story is from a series of books by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. They are science fiction stories, a mix of imagination and science.

Last week, we met John Carter who begins the story. He enters a cave deep in the desert in the state of Arizona. There something happens. He does not know how, but he has been transported to the Red Planet, Mars.

He quickly learns that gravity on Mars is much less than on Earth. The lack of gravity makes him very strong. He can even jump very high without trying.

He finds a low wall that surrounds a group of eggs. The eggs are opening. Out come small, fierce-looking green creatures. When we left John Carter, a green adult creature carrying a long sharp spear was coming toward him.

And now, the second program in our series, "A Princess of Mars."

JOHN CARTER: The creature with the spear was huge. There were many other similar creatures. They had ridden behind me on the backs of large animals. Each of them carried a collection of strange-looking weapons.

The one with the large spear got down from the back of his animal and began walking toward me. He was almost five meters tall and a dark green color. Huge teeth stuck out of his face, and his expression showed much hate and violence.

Tars Tarkas
I immediately knew I was facing a terrible warrior. He began moving quickly toward me with the spear. I was completely unarmed. I could not fight. My only chance was to escape.

I used all my strength to jump away from him. I was able to jump almost thirty meters. The green Martian stopped and watched my effort. I would learn later that the look on his face showed complete surprise.

The creatures gathered and talked among themselves. While they talked, I thought about running away. However, I noticed several of them carried devices that looked very much like rifles. I could not run.

Soon, all but one of the creatures moved away. The one who had threatened me stayed. He slowly took off a metal band from his arm and held it out to me. He spoke in a strange language.

JOHN CARTER: Slowly, he laid down his weapons. I thought this would have been a sign of peace anywhere on Earth…why not on Mars, too? I walked toward him and in a normal voice announced my name and said I had come in peace. I knew he did not understand, but like me, he took it to mean that I meant no harm.

Slowly, we came together. He gave me the large metal band that had been around his arm. He turned and made signs with his hands that I should follow him. Soon we arrived at the large animal he had been riding.

He again made a sign with his hands that I should ride on the same animal behind him. The group turned and began riding across the land. We moved quickly toward mountains in the distance.

JOHN CARTER: The large animals we rode moved quickly across the land. I could tell from the surrounding mountains that we were on the bottom of a long dead sea.

In time we came to a huge city. At first I thought the city was empty. The buildings all were empty and in poor repair. But soon I saw hundreds of the green warriors. I also saw green women and children. I soon learned about many cities like this. The cities were built hundreds of years ago by a people that no longer existed. The green Martians used the cities. They moved from one empty city to another, never stopping for more than a day or two.

We got down from our animals and walked into a large building. We entered a room that was filled with fierce green warriors.

It was not difficult to tell that these were the leaders of the green Martians. One of them took hold of my arm. He shook me and lifted me off the ground. He laughed when he did so. I was to learn that green Martians only laugh at the pain or suffering of others.

This huge warrior threw me to the ground and then took hold of my arm again to pick me up. I did the only thing I could do. I hit him with my closed fist as hard as I could.

The green warrior fell to the floor and did not move. The others in the room grew silent. I had knocked down one of their warriors with only my hand.

I moved away from him and prepared to defend myself as best I could. But they did not move. The green Martian that had captured me walked toward me. He said in a clear voice:


JOHN CARTER: As he spoke, he pointed to his own chest. He was telling me his name! I pointed to my chest and said my name, "John Carter."

He turned and said the word, "Sola." Immediately, a green Martian woman came close. He spoke to her. She led me to another building and into a large room.

The room was filled with equipment carried by the green Martians. She prepared something for me to eat. I was very hungry.

I pointed to her and said the word "Sola." She pointed at me and said my name. It was a beginning. Sola was my guard.

She also became my teacher. In time she would become a close and valued friend. As I ate my meal, my lessons in the language of the green Martians continued.

JOHN CARTER: Two days later, Tars Tarkas came to my room. He carried the weapons and the metal armbands the green warriors wear. He put them on the ground near my feet. Sola told him I now understood some of their language. He turned to me and spoke slowly.

TARS TARKAS: The warrior you hit is dead. His weapons and the metal of his rank are yours, John Carter. He was a leader of one small group among our people. Because you have killed him, you now are a leader.

You are still a captive and not free to leave. However you will be treated with the respect you have earned. You are now a warrior among our people.

JOHN CARTER: Tars Tarkas turned and spoke softly. From beyond the door a strange creature entered the room. It was bigger than a large dog and very ugly. It had rows of long teeth and ten very short legs. Tars Tarkas spoke to the creature and pointed at me. He left. The creature looked at me, watching closely. Then Sola spoke about the creature.

SOLA: His name is Woola. The men of our tribe use them in hunting and war. He has been told to guard and protect you. He has also been told to prevent your escape. There is no faster creature in our world. And in a fight they can kill very quickly. Do not try to escape, John Carter. Woola will tear you to small pieces.

JOHN CARTER: I continued to watch the creature named Woola. I had already seen how the green Martians treated other animals. They were very cruel.

I thought, perhaps this beast can be taught to be my friend…much like a dog on Earth. I walked close to the creature and began speaking in much the same way I would speak to a dog or other animal on Earth.

I sat down next to him while I talked softly. At first he seemed confused. I believe the creature Woola had never heard a kind word.

For the next several days I gained the trust and friendship of Woola. In a few short days Woola was my friend and fierce protector. He would remain my loyal friend as long as I was on Mars.

JOHN CARTER: Several days later, Sola came to me with a look of great concern.

SOLA: John Carter…come with me. A great battle is about to take place. An enemy is coming near this city. We must prepare to fight and we must be ready to flee.

JOHN CARTER: Sola, what enemy is this?

SOLA: A race of red men who travel our world in flying machines. A great number of their machines have come over the far mountain. Take your weapons with you and hurry.

JOHN CARTER: I collected my sword and a spear. I hurried out of the building and joined a group of warriors moving toward the end of the city. Far in the distance I could see the air ships.

They were firing large guns at the green warriors. I heard huge explosions. The green warriors were firing back with their deadly rifles. The air was filled with the sound of violent battle.

Suddenly a huge air ship exploded. It came down, crashing near me. Red Martians were falling from the side of the huge ship. And then it exploded again.


You have been listening to the Special English program, American Stories. This has been the second part of the story "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burrows. This story was adapted for Special English by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Paul Thompson and Mario Ritter.

Shep O'Neal was the voice of John Carter. Steve Ember was Tars Tarkas. And Barbara Klein was Sola. Join us again next week at this time as we continue "A Princess of Mars" in VOA Special English.

1. The green creatures had a habit of ____________________ their animals.
a: eating without cooking
b: mistreating
c: gently talking to
d: throwing balls so their animals could catch them in the air

2. Because John Carter killed a fierce green Martian in a fist fight, the other Martians ____________________ .
a: really got upset
b: decided he was a leader and a warrior
c: put him in a Martian jail with other American ex-patriots
d: sent him back to Earth in a poorly designed flying machine

3. Woola is an animal who becomes John Carter's _________________ .
a: enemy
b: pet
c: protector
d: wife

4. In the battle between the green warriors and the red martians, ___________________ .
a: the green warriors were victorious
b: the red martians completely overwhelmed the green warriors
c: John Carter saved the lives of the green warriors
d: the frightened red martians flew away as soon as they saw Woola

5. At first, The Martians spoke to John Carter _________________________ .
a: in English
b: in a language he didn't understand
c: with a Boston accent
d: too loud for John's delicate ears

6. The green Martians _____________________________________ .
a: were proud of the cities they built
b: enjoyed night life in their cool cities, drinking, dancing, going to movies
c: never stayed in their cities for a long time
d: had trouble remembering where their cities were located

7. Tars Tarkas was clearly impressed when John Carter _____________________ .
a: kissed Sola's hand
b: tickled Woola's tummy
c: jumped thirty meters to get away from the spear attack
d: learned to speak Martian after only a few lessons

8. When a woman pointed to herself and said "Sola", John Carter understood this to mean " _____________________ " .
a: I'm lonely
b: Let's have a drink sometime
c: My name is 'Sola'
d: Stop staring at me with your tongue hanging out, please.

9. The best description of this story among these four possibilities is _______________ .
a: a story of true love
b: a fantastic journey
c: a realistic story based on known scientific facts
d: a story set in the American southwest

10. Green Martians have a sense of humor. But they laugh only when _______________ .
a: they hear jokes about their mothers-in-law
b: when they see pain or suffering of others
c: you make a funny face and stick your middle finger in the air
d: you imitate Red Martians

11. John Carter traveled to Mars _______________ .
a: by a NASA rocket ship
b: by hitching ride aboard a Red Martian freighter
c: by taking a shuttle from the International Space Station, paying $200,000.00 for his ticket
d: by being mysteriously transported there

Here is the trailer from the Walt Disney high budget film, "John Carter", made in 2012, and released in March. The film was a box office failure in the United States. It lost a lot of money for Disney. It was better received in Europe and particularly Russia. The failure of the film was blamed on the performance of its lead character, John Carter himself. Also, some blamed the failure on the poor publicity, including this trailer! It may be, however, that the film was too much like the Star Wars films by George Lucas and so appeared to be imitative and derivative. Actually, I think George Lucas was heavily influenced by the the book, "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs published in 1912. Personally, I prefer the VOA version because I can use my own imagination rather than be overpowered by all of Hollywood's special effects industries.

What do you think? This is a possible subject for a lively discussion.

"A Princess of Mars" Part One
"A Princess of Mars" Part Three
"A Princess of Mars" Part Four
Edgar Rice Burroughs in Wikipedia

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Index to American Short Stories

"A Child's Bath" by American Impressionist,
Mary Cassatt, 1893

Marian Anderson: Great African American Opera Star, from VOA

I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today, we complete the story of singer Marian Anderson.

(MUSIC: "der schmied, op. 19/4")

Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early nineteen hundreds. She began singing in church. Soon, her rich deep voice became widely known in the area.

Marian Anderson loved opera. At that time, however, black singers were not permitted in white opera companies in the United States. So she performed as a concert artist instead. Her first concert in New York City was not successful. She felt defeated and did not sing again in public for many months. Then her mother became sick. Anderson knew she would have to work to keep her family together. Singing was her work.

In the nineteen twenties Marian Anderson won two singing competitions. She sang in New York with the Philharmonic Orchestra. This concert was a huge success. She signed an agreement to perform in other cities. Most of the time, only black people attended her concerts. When she was in the southern part of the United States, she was not permitted to stay in hotels for white people. She did not let racial hatred affect her music. Yet she knew she would never be completely successful until she could sing for all people.

In nineteen thirty, Marian Anderson received money to study music in London. In those days, Europe seemed to be the only place where a black artist could gain recognition. So Marian traveled to Europe. Many years later, she described her experience there: "I was made to feel welcome, even at a hotel. People accepted me as a person. They judged me for my qualities as a human being and an artist . . . nothing else."

In the nineteen thirties, Anderson studied and performed in London and Berlin, Germany. She gave few concerts at first. Then she was invited to give a series of concerts in Sweden. The musician Kosti Vehanen played the piano at Marian's concerts. He said her voice was so powerful that it seemed to come from under the earth. He described it as a voice that overflowed with a deep, tragic feeling.

Marian Anderson had her first great success in Sweden. The Swedish people loved her voice. They especially liked the spirituals she sang. Few of them had heard this kind of American music before.

(MUSIC: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands")

Marian Anderson traveled through the countries of Scandinavia. People praised her singing everywhere she went. In Helsinki, Finland she sang for the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He told her: "The roof of my house is too low for your voice."

Anderson sang in Scandinavia for three concert seasons. She sang for the kings of Denmark and Sweden. Finally, she decided to return to the United States. She said she wanted to test herself in her own country.

News of her success in Scandinavia did not mean much to concert hall owners in the United States. They knew black concert singers were not popular. Anderson was back where she began -- singing at churches and small gatherings. She decided to go back to Europe. Again, she was greeted warmly.

Arturo Toscanini
The famous Italian orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini heard her sing in Austria. After the concert he said: "She has a voice that one hears only once in a hundred years." Toscanini's comment spread throughout the world of music. Finally, Marian Anderson was famous. She returned to the United States and sang all around the country. In nineteen thirty-five she appeared for the second time at Town Hall in New York. This time she was a great success.

(MUSIC: "Don Carlos")

Marian Anderson gave concerts in northern and southern cities. She firmly believed that her music was the best weapon against racial hatred.

At one concert in the southern state of Mississippi, Anderson saw that her singing could bring people together. It had been a long concert. Yet the crowd kept calling for more. Marian asked the audience to join her in singing one last song. The people stood. Black people and white people sang together, side by side. The local newspaper described what happened: "Sometimes the human spirit rises above itself, above racial prejudice. "

Another incident became famous around the world. Marian Anderson was to sing in Washington, D.C. at Constitution Hall. This concert hall was owned by an organization called the Daughters of the American Revolution, or D.A.R. The D.A.R. would not permit Anderson to perform in the concert hall because she was black.

Eleanor Roosevelt and
Marian Anderson
Many people protested, including Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the American president. With Mrs. Roosevelt's help, Anderson was able to sing for an even bigger crowd in Washington. She gave a free concert in the open air, near the Lincoln memorial. Seventy-five thousand people attended that concert on Easter Sunday, April ninth, nineteen thirty-nine. Years later, Anderson described how she felt on that day:

"There seemed to be people as far as the eye could see. I felt that a great wave of goodwill poured out from those people. When I saw them, my heart jumped wildly. I could not talk. I wondered if I would be able to sing. "

Marian Anderson did sing. And seventy-five thousand voices -- black and white -- joined with hers. They sang the national song of the United States. Then they listened as she sang another song about America.

(MUSIC: "My Country 'Tis of Thee")

75,000 people entranced
In nineteen fifty-five, Marian Anderson was asked to sing with the New York Metropolitan Opera company. It was the first time a black singer performed regularly with an American opera group. Marian Anderson's presence made it possible for other black singers to become opera singers in the United States.

Marian Anderson received many honors and awards during her life. In nineteen fifty-eight she was appointed a delegate to the United Nations, expanding her job as goodwill ambassador of the United States. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in nineteen sixty-three.

Anderson retired from singing two years later. She lived quietly with her husband, Orpheus Fisher, in the state of Connecticut. After he died, she lived with her sister's son, orchestra conductor James De Priest. Marian Anderson died in nineteen ninety-three at the age of ninety-six.

Experts say she is remembered not only for the quality of her voice, but also because of the way she carried out her right to be heard.

(MUSIC: "Ave Maria")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.


Marian Anderson believed that the best weapon against racial hatred was ________________ .
a: music
b: demonstrations
c: boycotts
d: sermons in church

2. The musician Kosti Vehanen said that Anderson's voice was _______________ it seemed to come from under the earth.
a: as powerful as
b: more powerful than
c: so powerful that
d: as powerful than

3. Throughout the countries of _________________ , people praised her singing.
a: Finland
b: Germany
c: Scandinavia
d: South America

4. Marian Anderson ___________________ became an opera star in 1955.
a: wanted to
b: for about a month
c: finally
d: should have

5. In 1958, Marian Anderson was appointed _____________ to the United Nations.
a: professional singer
b: delegate
c: Opera Representative
d: composer

6. A goodwill ambassador is someone who __________________________ .
a: sings in Europe
b: promotes international friendship
c: tries to make other countries believe in U.S. ideals.
d: negotiates for peace between warring countries

7. Marian Anderson broke racial barriers when she _________________ .
a: studied and performed in London and Berlin
b: performed for the King of Denmark
c: sang in churches and small gatherings
d: joined the Metropolitan Opera Company

8. In 1939, Marian Anderson was to sing at Constitution Hall, a concert hall owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, but ______________________ .
a: the D.A.R. would not permit her to sing because she was black
b: Eleanor Roosevelt decided it would be better for Marian to give a free concert near the Lincoln Memorial
c: the concert was canceled because they couldn't see enough tickets
d: the concert hall was too crowded, so they had to move it to the Lincoln Memorial

9. At one concert in the southern state of ___________________ , Marian asked the audience to join her in song. White and black people sang together.
a: Florida
b: South Carolina
c: Mississippi
d: Texas

10. When white and black people sang together at that Marian Anderson concert, one newspaper commented, " Sometimes the human spirit rises above itself, above ___________________ ".
a: greed and anger
b: racial prejudice
c: shyness and shame
d: individualism and nationalism

11. ______________________ said, "She has a voice heard once in a hundred years."
a: Eleanor Roosevelt
b: Arturo Toscanini
c: Jean Sibelius
d: The King of Sweden

This is a twenty minute documentary about Marian Anderson made in the 1950s. It has
good quality. You probably can't hear all of it today, but make time to view it. It's worthwhile. She is one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century.

Marion Anderson, Great African American Opera Star: Part One

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"A Child's Bath" by American Impressionist,
Mary Cassatt, 1893

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cole Porter, Part Two, from VOA

This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we bring you the second part of our program about American songwriter Cole Porter. Porter wrote his songs from the nineteen twenties to the nineteen fifties. They continue to be popular today.

(MUSIC: "Anything Goes")

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, Heaven knows,
Anything Goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose, Anything Goes.

If saying your prayers you like,
If green pears you like
If old chairs you like,
If back stairs you like,
If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose!

So, though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose,
Anything goes...
Anything goes!

That was a recording of “Anything Goes”, one of Cole Porter’s most famous songs. Caroline O’Connor sings it in the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.” Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd star in this movie about Porter’s life, released in two thousand four. The title of the movie is from one of Porter’s popular songs, “It’s De-Lovely.” In the song, Porter plays with words that start with the letter “d.” Robbie Williams sings the song.


The night is young, the skies are clear
And if you want to go walkin', dear
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

I understand the reason why
You're sentimental, 'cause so am I
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is for romance
You can hear, dear Mother Nature murmuring low "Let yourself go"

So please be sweet, my chickadee
And when I kiss ya, just say to me
"It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely"

As we said in our program last week, Cole Porter went to live in France in nineteen sixteen before he became famous. He was a wealthy young man who was smart and funny and knew how to enjoy life. He and his wife, Linda, became well known for their costly and exciting parties.

Yet Cole Porter never let other pleasures interfere with what he loved most – writing songs. He worked hard on his songs. Both the words and music had to be perfect.

Porter gained fame as a musical theater writer by the early nineteen thirties. His musical plays were produced in Broadway theaters in New York City. He had a new musical every year or so during the years of America’s great economic depression. His words and music gave people a few hours of pleasurable escape during difficult times.

Some critics still consider one of Porter’s early musical plays, “Anything Goes,” to be his best. “Anything Goes” opened on Broadway in nineteen thirty-four. It starred one of Porter’s favorite singers, Ethel Merman. She sang a song that became famous immediately. It is called “I Get a Kick Out of You.” That expression means I enjoy being with you.


I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?

Ethel Merman
Some get a kick from cocaine.
I'm sure that if I took even one sniff
That would bore me terrifically too
Yet I get a kick out of you.

For years, Porter was Broadway’s “King Cole.” His musical plays were very successful. Later, he went to Los Angeles, California and wrote music for Hollywood movies. They were very popular, too.

Cole and Linda Porter traveled all over the world. They were happily married most of the time. But Cole Porter was homosexual. He had sex with men. Homosexuality was both accepted and forbidden in high society at that time. Love affairs between men were not exactly secret. Yet they could never be admitted publicly.

All his life, Cole Porter wrote songs about love, desire and passion. He included the names of foreign countries, famous people and comments on current events. And he filled his songs with little jokes and hidden meanings.

Porter’s words stretched the limits of what was socially acceptable. They spoke directly and indirectly about sex. They admitted that love is not always pure. It is often selfish. And it rarely lasts forever. Porter was not even sure what love really is. He wonders about it in this song, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” It is sung by Lemar.


what is this thing called love
this funny thing
called love
just who can solve its mystery
why should it make
a fool of me?

I saw you there
one wonderful day
you took my heart
and threw it away
thats why I ask the lord
in heaven above
what is this thing
called love?

Cole Porter also wrote some of the most beautiful love songs ever, full of true, deep feeling. Critics consider “Every Time We Say Goodbye” to be one of his finest songs. Natalie Cole sings the song.


Everytime we say goodbye, I die a little,
Everytime we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the Gods above me, who must be in the know.
Think so little of me, they allow you to go.
When you're near, there's such an air of spring about it,
I can hear a lark somewhere, begin to sing about it,
There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to
Everytime we say goodbye.

In nineteen thirty-seven, Cole Porter was injured while riding a horse. The horse slid on a muddy hill and fell on top of him. His legs were crushed. Cole Porter spent the rest of his life, twenty-seven years, disabled and in severe pain. Yet he continued writing wonderful songs, musical plays and movies.

In nineteen forty-eight, he wrote what some consider his greatest work. It was a musical play called “Kiss Me, Kate.” It was based on William Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew.” But it takes place in modern times, among a group of actors. The play was produced again on Broadway in nineteen ninety-nine.

One of the most famous songs in the musical is called “Too Darn Hot.” It is a funny song about how hard it is to be interested in love in really hot weather. Stanley Wayne Mathis sings it in “Kiss Me, Kate.”

(MUSIC: "Too Darn Hot")

It's too darn hot,
It's too darn hot.
I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight.
I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight,
But I ain't up to my baby tonight,
'Cause it's too darn hot.

Cole Porter had another hit show in nineteen fifty-three, called “Cancan.” It was his final play. That same year, Porter’s wife, Linda, died. Porter was very sad, and increasingly disabled by his old injury. He died at the age of seventy-three in nineteen sixty-four.

In nineteen ninety-one, America celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of Cole Porter’s birth. Special concerts celebrated his music. New recordings were issued. Jazz singers and symphony orchestras recorded his songs.

So did several rock-and-roll artists. They made a recording and special music video to honor him. All the money earned from the recording and video was given to research on AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a disease that was first discovered among homosexual men.

Today, Cole Porter’s songs are still valued for their beauty, humor and intelligence. And for their unexpected jokes and word play. They shine like jewels, one critic wrote. They are shot through with love that sometimes feels like pain.

There seems little doubt that Cole Porter’s songs will continue to be sung. They will make us laugh. They will make us cry. And they will touch the deepest truths of our emotions.

(MUSIC: "Night and Day")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.


1. At Harvard University, Cole Porter first studied ______ .

a. music
b. law
c. art
d. psychology

2. Most of the songs Cole Porter wrote were about _______ .
a. politics
b. current events
c. love
d. little jokes

3. A song that considers the meaning of love is " ____________ " .
a. You're The Top
b. What is This Thing Called Love
c. Too Darn Hot
d. Kiss Me, Kate

4. Cole Porter went to live in Europe in 1916 because his first musical, "See America First" was _________ .
a. a great success
b. going to be produced in Paris
c. a big failure
d. a prize winner

5. Cole Porter used his money to live a life full of ___________ .
a. sorrow
b. activity
c. travel
d. pleasure

6. A movie made about Cole Porter is called " ___________ " .
a. Kiss me, Kate
b. Cole Porter
c. De Lovely
d. Falling in Love

7. Cole Porter got the idea for "Night and Day" while traveling in ____________ .
a. Morocco
b. Paris
c. Spain
d. Peru

8. Some people thought his songs were outside of what was ___________ .
a. normal
b. socially acceptable
c. rational
d. interesting

9. Another name for this article could be " __________ " .
a. Songs of the Twenties
b. Life Among the Rich
c. Cole Porter: Great Writer of Love Songs
d. Song Writers of the Thirties

10. This article is mainly about ________ .
a. what love really is about
b. why marriages often fail
c. the life story of a popular songwriter
d. how to find love in paradise

Youtube: Clip from the 1988 revival of "Anything Goes" by Cole Porter
Cole Porter, Part One