Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We listen to some music from Chrisette Michele …
Answer a listener's question about gun control in the United States …
And report about a popular service of the Voice of America.
VOA Pronunciation Guide
Every day, someone somewhere in the world uses the Internet Web site of the Voice of America Pronunciation Guide. And now, any computer sound system can be used to hear its correct pronunciations. Mario Ritter tells us more.
The Pronunciation Guide began as a tool for VOA announcers to show them how to pronounce names in the news. The guide lists more than six thousand names, including political leaders, scientists and other people in the news. There are also names of places and organizations.
The Web site shows the correct way to say the name and plays a recording. Let us say you need to know how to pronounce the name of Iran's President. On the Web site, you will see the name and hear:
Jim Tedder is the VOA announcer who developed this online pronunciation tool. Yes, the same Jim Tedder who reads Special English news.
Jim says he updates the list several times a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. When a new name appears in the news, Jim works quickly to find the correct pronunciation so he can add the name to the list. He gets a lot of help from people who work in this building. VOA broadcasts in forty-six languages. So he could call someone in the Chinese branch to ask how to pronounce a Chinese name. Sometimes, no one at VOA can help him. So Jim calls the person directly, if possible. Or he calls an embassy here in Washington, or a delegation at the United Nations in New York City.
The pronunciation guide is an important tool for VOA broadcasters. But it has also become extremely popular with other radio and television stations around the world. Students and teachers also use the guide. So do business people and anyone who wants to make sure they can pronounce a person's name correctly.
So how can you find the VOA Pronunciation Guide? One way is to go to the Special English Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Click on "Other Resources" at the bottom of the left side column. Then choose "Pronunciation Guide" from the list.
Our listener question today comes from China. Sean wants to know about gun control laws in the United States.
Many Americans feel very strongly about the subject of gun control. Some people believe that a person has the right to own a gun. Others believe the government must control the sale and use of guns to reduce gun violence and protect public safety. The fact that gun laws are different in every state makes the issue even more complex. Some estimates say about thirty percent of the American population own guns.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is often at the center of gun control debates. It says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The National Rifle Association uses this amendment to support the argument that individuals have the right to own guns. However, people who support gun control laws say this amendment has been misunderstood.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence works to improve laws controlling guns in an effort to protect public safety. It says eighty people die each day in this country because of guns. And it says the United States leads the world in the number of deaths each year due to gun violence.
It often takes a tragedy to increase efforts to reform gun laws in the United States. For example, in the nineteen sixties President John F. Kennedy, his brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior were killed by gunfire. The Gun Control Act of nineteen sixty-eight made it illegal for criminals to buy guns. But it was not until the Brady Act of nineteen ninety-three that a person's criminal record had to be examined before the person could buy a gun.
Last year, a troubled college student at Virginia Tech bought two guns and shot and killed thirty-two teachers and students. The twenty-three year old killer had a history of mental illness that should have prevented him from buying a gun.
Earlier this month, President Bush signed a law to improve background checks so that they include more criminal and mental health records. It is meant to prevent people with a history of dangerous mental illness from buying guns.The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case on guns and the meaning of the Second Amendment. It is expected to announce its decision in June.
Singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele's voice has set her apart from other singers her age. Some music critics say the twenty-three year old sounds like the great jazz singer Billie Holiday. Chrisette combines that sound with her love for hip-hop music. Barbara Klein plays some of her music.
Chrisette Michele first became popular in two thousand six for the songs she wrote and performed with major hip-hop artists, including Jay-Z and Nas. Although Chrisette has always valued the religious music she sings in church, she also describes herself as a child of the hip-hop culture.
The many musical influences can be heard on her album "I Am." Here she sings "Like a Dream."
When Chrisette was in high school one of her teachers introduced her to jazz music. She immediately fell in love with the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. After college, Chrisette began performing in small clubs in New York City. Music industry experts noted how she combines the influences of soulful gospel and jazz singing with energetic hip-hop beats. Here she sings "Be OK."
We leave you with another song by Chrisette Michele from her album "I Am." Here she sings the love song "If I Have My Way."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Lawan Davis, Nancy Steinbach and Dana Demange who was also our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Send your questions about American life to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.