(reviewed winter 2010)
Reviewer: Ya-Wen Cheng
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Voice of America (VOA) is a website that focuses on the audience of EFL/ESL learners who want to practice and improve their American English. The purpose of the website is to provide EFL/ESL learners English learning resources by using radio and simple English containing a lot of different topics and issues from the world news. EFL/ESL teachers can also adapt these resources for use in their class. VOA began in 1942 and it is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Boards of Governor.
VOA is a useful website for English learners. I strongly recommend this website to ESL/EFL learners for their English learning tool. The organization is good, and it provides guidance for using the website, including how to use it, what is included and what the features of each part are. The website offers many learning resources with different topics and issues, such as American life, health and education.
There are three main characteristics of each section in this site. First, it has a core of 1500 words. Most of the words are simple and are used to describe objects, actions or emotions. Some are difficult words that are utilized to report world events. Second, the writer uses short and simple sentences which contain only one idea. There is no passive voice or idioms. Finally, the broadcasters read at a slow pace, about two-thirds the speed of Standard English. Therefore, these features can help students understand spoken language easily.
The “Radio Broadcasts” section of this site is well-organized and has the weekly schedule which includes different topics. The broadcasts provide the latest news from around the world, and different short features, such as American idioms, education, etc. Some in-depth features about life in the USA are offered, such as American history, popular culture and short stories. The broadcasts embraces different topics and issues so they can help learners be involved in broad reading and the knowledge of vocabulary.
The “Find us on TV” section of this site provides 20 minute programs for short features which are read by special English announcers along with scrolling texts. It is televised weekly by satellite. It is good practice to help learners connect listening to reading, and it may be much easier for learners to watch satellite TV with scrolling texts.
The “English learning” section of this site contains three parts, including words and their stories, wordmaster and games with words. The part of word and their stories are related to the articles about words and terms used in everyday American English. This part is really helpful for learners to know about words beyond their literal meaning and they offer some examples to put words in use. Thus, learners can understand how to use the words correctly.
The part called “wordmaster” offers broad topics and issues which students can read about while listening to the audio. The content is formed by dialogues. The part called “games” with words provides some interesting games like crossword puzzles and hangman games that are developed by ESL teaching expert Charles Kelly based on the words in this website. Hence, learners can assess their English ability in different ways.
In this website, learners can read the articles, listen to the audio and download different formats of audio. Besides, they can also give their comments on the articles. Therefore, learners can learn English with broad topics everywhere. In short, this is a well-organized website for learners to use; it will help them gain wide knowledge about different topics and issues.
Subject Headings: ESL students, easy English, reading, current events, listening