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There are 8
major holidays in the
We must also say that the Americans celebrate holidays which are observed in many countries of the world. Among these are Christmas, which is celebrated on December 25, New Year’s Day, January 1, and Easter, which always falls on a Sunday.
major American holiday in January is Martin
Luther King’s Day, which is observed on the third Monday of every January
beginning in 1986. Martin Luther King was a black clergyman who became famous
all over the world for his campaigns to win full civil rights for the black
people in the
President’s Day is
quite an old national holiday. For quite a long time it was observed on
February 22, the birthday of George
Washington, first president of the
Memorial Day is the fourth Monday of every May, when the American’s honour the dead. They remember the dead of all wars and all other dead. Special ceremonies are held in cemeteries, at monuments for the war dead, in churches, schools, or other public places. Memorial Day is also considered to be the beginning of the summer season.
The fourth ob
July is known as Independence Day
Labour Day is observed on the first Monday of September since 1984. The traditions of this holiday are even still older. On this day the Americans honour their working people. In many cities parades of different labour organizations are held. This day also marks the end of the summer season. Public schools open just before or after Labour Day.
We all know
Veterans’ Day is honoured on November 11. This was the date when the First
World War ended in 1918. On Veterans’ Day the Americans honour
veterans of all the wars in which the
As has been
said Americans widely celebrate Easter
and Christmas. Easter is a religious
holiday, but many follow old traditions during the holiday such as dyeing
hard-boiled eggs, and making presents of chocolate eggs, rabbits and chicks.
Many parents organize Easter egg hunts, in which children look for dyed eggs
hidden around the house or in the garden. The President of the
Americans celebrate New Year’s Day very much like people in different countries of the world. The celebration take place the night before, when Americans gather in homes or in restaurants or other public places to enjoy food and different drinks and to wish each other a happy new year. There is much noise at midnight when the old year passes away, and the new year arrives. People sing. Dance, the cars in the streets signal their horns.
day that most Americans, especially the young people, observe is Valentine’s Day. It is on February 14, though it is not an
official holiday. The tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day is very old.
Very many years ago it was celebrated in honour of a
Christian saint. On this day Americans send gifts to people they love. They
also send special greeting cards called Valentines to those whom they love.
Usually the gifts are sweets, chocolates and flowers. The tradition of
celebrating Valentine’s Day is well known in the
The right of the people to know is one of the central principles of American society. Recognizing this fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution (1791) says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ”. And subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court have extended this curb to all levels of government. That protection from control by the federal government meant that anyone, regardless of his political or religious beliefs, could publish what he wished.
Over the past 2 centuries the means of communication, what we call the “media”, “mass media”, “news media” have grown immensely. Early in American history the media were few and simple, they included newspapers, pamphlets and books. Today the media also include TV, radio, films and cable TV (the so-called electronic press). The term “the press” has expanded to refer now to any news operation in any media, not jut print.
among print media are large, mass-circulation national newspapers, such as the
The proportion of
The tendency to objective reporting made the New York Times the nation’s most prestigious newspaper. This newspaper established itself as a serious alternative to sensationalist journalism. It presents important national and international events, a tradition which still continues. The New York Times is only one of many daily newspapers that have become significant in shaping public opinion. Among the most prominent are The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Christian Science Monitor. These are the newspapers with the largest circulations (from 1 to 2 million copies).
A number of
magazines have even larger circulations. At the top of the list among those that
print mainly political news is Time,
which sells 4,5 million copies each week. Time
was the first magazine to organize news into separate departments, such as
national affairs, business and science. Other prominent news weeklies are Newsweek, using much the same format, Business Week and US News and World Report. But the largest audiences of readers
were won by magazines that catered to Americans’ increasing leisure time and
appetite for consumer goods, such as Cosmopolitan,
the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. Publishers are no
longer just selling reading material; they are selling readers to advertisers.
Among all magazines the leading is the monthly Reader’s Digest, with a circulation of over 18 million copies. The
1st commercial radio station in the
In the late 1940s and 1950s TV was establishing itself as an entertainment medium. Like radio before it, TV focused on entertainment to provide large audiences to advertisers. TV production rapidly became concentrated in 3 major networks: CBS, NBC and ABC. One 30-second commercial on ABC-TV’s evening news costs 50000 dollars. It was not until the 1960s that TV news came into its own. Watching TV soon became a social ritual. Traditional family ways were weakening. Millions of people set up their activities and lifestyles around TV’s programmes. The average American spends a great amount of time in front of a TV-set, about 20 hours a week! TV has become the main source from which most Americans get the information.
By the beginning
of the 1990s the use of media in the
Technology continues to change the media. Computers are already revolutionizing the printing process. Cables and satellites are expanding potentialities of TV.
THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN ENGLISH.
The early English
colonists in the new world were speaking Elizabethan English, the language of
Shakespeare and Marlow, when they came to
The first colonists saw plants and animals which were new to them. Some of the fish they caught in the coastal waters were unlike anything they had seen before. The land was occupied by tribes who spoke strange languages, wore strange clothing, prepared strange foods. Even the landscape was greatly different from the neatly tailored English countryside. Names had to be given to all these aspects of their new life. So, from the Indians were borrowed not only the many geographical names of rivers, lakes, mountains, but names for objects (plants, animals), as well as implements and food preparations of a new kind, such as canoe, moccasin, wigwam, toboggan, tomahawk, totem, igloo, hammock, etc.
various Indian influences, American English reflects the other non-English
cultures which the colonists men in their conquest o the continent. In the
westward expansion of their territory, the English-speaking colonists soon came
into contact with the casual French settlements in the
The increasing influence of the mass media has caused a steady infiltration of American words and expressions into British English. The word “okay”, for example, once exclusively American, is today normal British usage. And the word “commuter”, meaning a person who travels to and from his work daily with a season ticket, is rapidly passing into British English. It is shorter and easier than the British equivalent, “season ticket holder”. Americans are constantly inventing new words, many of which have found a permanent place first in American and then in British usage. In this category we have formations like “to televise” from “television”, and compound words like “cablegram” from “cable” and “telegram” and “sport-cast” from “sport” and “broadcast”. The use of nouns as verbs and vice versa has also given rise to new words. Thus we have “to park”, which now means “to put in a safe place until needed”, and today we park not only cars but also children, dogs and even chewing gum. A cheap article of good quality is a “good buy”, things to eat are “eats”, and a technical designer who produces a perfect “lay-out” (design) has “know-how”. Foreign students with a knowledge of English often experience considerable difficulty in their first contacts with American speakers. The problem here, however, usually has more to do with pronunciation than with the language itself. Apart from the typically nasal quality of American speech, there are the number of basic differences between British and American pronunciation:
a) Words ending in –ary and –ory have a stress on the text to last syllable in American: secretary, laboratory;
b) Americans often pronounce [r] in position where it is not pronounced in British English: car, here;
c) In such words as bath, news the American pronunciation will be [bæθ], [nu:z];
d) Other words which are pronounced differently tomato, address.
In American English the pronunciation is [tә’meitәυ] and [‘ædres].
In American English there is an increasing tendency to employ a simplified spelling. The commonest feature of this
simplified spelling is the use of –or in all words that in English contain –our: thus Americans write
labor, honor, honorable, also many
Americans write tru
for through, Malboro for
There are, however, a number of cases in which British and American people continue to use different words to mean
the same thing. These words are still in constant use and have retained their national character. Here are a few examples illustrating certain variations in the two languages.
booking office ticket window
bonnet (of a car) hood
car park parking lot
Circus (Piccadilly) Circle
garage service station
guard (of a train) conductor
goods train freight train
lay by rest area (on highway)
petrol gas or gasoline
Out of more than 3
million students who graduate from high school each year, about 1 million go on
for “higher education”. It is not easy to enter a college at a leading
university in the
Successful applicants at colleges of higher education are usually chosen on the basis of (a) their high school records which included their class rank, the list of all the courses taken and all the grades received in high school, test results; (b) recommendations from their high school teachers; (c) the impression they make during interviews at the university, which is in fact a serious examination; and (d) their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs). The SAT is a test in mathematics and English language which was introduced in 1947. The SAT is taken in the 11th grade of high school (over 1,5 million high school students take it yearly). If a student gets 1600 scores it is considered as a good result, if he or she gets 400 scores such a result is considered to be poor. A SAT can be taken 2 or 3 times, so that the student can improve the results if he or she wishes to do so.
The system of
higher education includes 4 categories of institutions: (1) the two*year, or
community college, which is financed by the local authorities and which is
intended to satisfy the needs of the local community in different professions.
Tuition fees are low in these colleges, that is why about 40% of all American
students of higher education study at these colleges. On graduation from such
colleges American students can start to work or may transfer to four-year
colleges or universities; (2) the technical training institution, at which high
school graduates may take courses ranging from 6 months to 3-4 years, and learn
different technical skills, which may include design, business, computer programming,
accounting, etc., (3) the four-year college which is not part of a university.
The graduates receive the degree of bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of
science (BS), (4) the university, which may contain (a) several colleges for
students who want to receive the bachelor’s degree after four years of study;
and (b) one or more graduate schools for those who want to continue their
studies after college for about two years to receive a master’s degree (Master
of Arts (MA)) or of Science (MS) or a doctoral degree (Ph. D. – Doctor of
Philosophy, in some science). There are 156 universities in the
Any of this institutions of higher education may be either public or private. The public institutions are financed by the state. Of the four-year institutions 28% are public, and 72% are private, but most of the students, about 80%, study at public institutions of higher education, because tuition fees here are much lower. If at the end of the 1980s tuition fees at private institutions were 12 thousand dollars a year and even higher, at public institutions they were 2-5 thousand dollars a year.
Many students need financial aid to attend college. When a family applies for aid, an analysis is made of the parents’ income. The aid may be given in the form of a grant, or stipend which the student doesn’t need to pay back. It may be given as a loan, which the student must pay back after college. The third type of aid may be given in the form of some kind of work, which the student has to do at the university or college, for which he gets some money. Most students work, especially during the summer vacation.
The academic year is usually nine months, or two semesters of 4 and a half months each. Studies usually begin in September and end in July. There are summer classes for those who want to improve the grades or take up additional courses. Students who study at the university or four-year college are known as undergraduates. Those who have received a degree after 4 years of studies are known as graduates. They may continue with their studies and research work to another 2 years as graduates in order to get a higher degree. The undergraduate students who study for four years are called as follows: (a) the first-year student is called a freshman; (b) the second-year student is called a sophomore; (c) the student of the third year is known as a junior; and (d) the fourth-year student – a senior.
During one term or semester a student will study four or five different subjects. The students’ progress is controlled through oral or written tests, term or course papers and a final examination in each course. Each part of a student’s work in a course is given a mark which helps to determine his final grade. A student’s record consists of his grade in each course. College grades are usually on a five-point scale: A – is the highest mark and is usually equal to 5 points, B=4, C=3, D=2, E or F means failure. To points make it possible to calculate the GPA (grade point average). Normally, a minimum GPA of 3,5, points is necessary to continue or university and to graduate.
Each college or university has its own curriculum. There are courses that every student has to take an order to receive a degree. These courses or subjects are called major subjects or “majors”. At the same time there are subjects, which the student may choose himself for his future life. These courses are called “electives”. A student has to earn a certain number of “credits” (about 120) in order to receive a degree at the end of four years of college. Credits are earned by attending lectures or laboratory classes and completing assignments and examinations. One credit usually equals one hour of class per week in a single course during the semester.
Thus, we see that the American system of higher education gives the student much choice which he may realize according to his will. His achievements in his studies and future work depend upon himself. At the same time many Americans are not satisfied with the condition of higher education in their country. The high tuition fees make it difficult for law-paid American families to send their children to university. This is especially true for young people from minority groups – the Blacks, Asians, etc. Though much is spent by the state for education, American universities complain that this funds are becoming smaller with every new year. The equipment which is used at the universities for research is not modern enough, and the universities do not have the money to install new equipment. Under such conditions tuition fees are growing and many talented young people cannot receive higher education. Critics point out that one every eight highly talented high school graduates does not go on to university or college, and only half the students who enter college for a bachelor’s degree actually achieve their aim. All these problems are widely discussed today in American society.
When the 1st
census was taken in 1790 much of the country had not even been explored, and
much of it did not belong to the
A vital role in
the formation of the population of the
Europeans to establish permanent settlements along the Pacific coast were the
Russians. They came late in the eighteens century in search of easily extracted
riches. Here that proved to be furs, and they established a number of trading
posts and missionary activities that eventually reached as far south as
different countries very often live by solid communities – Franco-Canadians in
the north of New England, Germans in
A constituent part
of the American nation are about 30 million
Negro people, or Afro-Americans (over 12 % of the whole population).
Half of them live in the South, in the states of
In number of
population (over 260 million) the
The lowest density
of population is
The population of
50 largest American cities constitutes 37.8 million people (16.6 % of the
country’s population). At the top of the list is the urban agglomeration of
Today 95% of the
population of the
autumn more than 44 million young Americans walk through the doorways of about
106 thousand elementary and secondary schools for the start of a new school
year. The young people fill classrooms after leaving the kindergartens and
continue to study up to the 12th grade. (In the
of the 50 states in the
American schoolchildren pass through two main stages of school education on their way to get a high school diploma. They attend the elementary school and then the secondary school. Of the 44 million schoolchildren about 27 million attend elementary schools and 17 million secondary schools.
The elementary school may include 8 grades in some places, and 6 grades in other. Sometimes grades 4,5 and 6 make up what is called a “middle grade” school. Many Americans call the elementary school a “grammar school”.
Secondary education may begin with grade 9 or with grade 7. It depends on the way elementary education is organized in this or that state or district. Usually “secondary school” means grades 9-12. These grades are popularly called “high school”, and the young people who attend these schools are called high school students. So you must not mix up with those young people, who study at universities or colleges. They are also called students.
many districts secondary education begins with grade
there is no national curriculum in the
Almost every elementary school provides instruction in the subjects: mathematics, language (a subject that includes reading, grammar, composition and literature); penmanship (the rules of writing); science; social studies (a subject that includes history, geography citizenship and economics); music; art; and physical education. In many elementary schools, courses in the use of computers have been introduced. And in some cases they begin to study a foreign language.
Most secondary schools have the same number of required “basic” subjects: English, mathematics, science, social studies and physical education. But school boards differ greatly from one district to another in the amount of class time they want high school students to spend on these subjects. In some high schools, for example, students must complete 3 years of mathematics before leaving school.
High school students are helped by school counselors in choosing the subjects, which are called “electives”, because they are not necessary for everybody. A student chooses the electives which he thinks will be necessary for him for his future work or further education at the university or college. A student may take 1 year of American history, and then a year of European history. The elective courses differ from school to school. Some high schools specialize in 1 group of subjects, for example, in business, engineering, trade. Another high school may offer to study foreign languages, science, music. A student planning to become a doctor would want to attend a school where there are many electives in science, health. Another student who plans to start to work after leaving school will pay more attention to get practical knowledge and develop practical skills.
Though much is spent by the state for education, American schools face many problems. As the schools depend greatly on what they get from local authorities, they differ from one another in the quality of education. The private schools, where the parents have to pay special fees, are attended by children from rich families. Here education is very good. Thus, we see that not always young people have equal chances to get good education. Schools in the poor districts of many big cities do not give the required level of education.
One of the problems of the American school today is connected with the “drop-out” of high school students. Unfortunately, many high school students leave or drop out of schools before graduation because of poor material conditions at home. They have to work to help their families. Many specialists in the field of education consider that more attention must be paid to the quality of education so that the school graduates should be better prepared for work and further education.
School reform is a major issue in modern American life. The parents are often displeased with the low level of knowledge of public school leavers. Many Americans demand that a national curriculum for school should be worked out. President Clinton expressed his concern about the problems of American education, emphasizing that crime and violence are a result of the inefficiency of many public schools.
THE FACE OF THE COUNTRY.
physical features of the
mountain ranges or the
Appalachian Mountains consist mainly of the numerous mountain ranges which are
nearly parallel with the Atlantic coastline and extend from near the Gulf of
Mexico north into
all the Western part of the
Cordillera Mountain System includes a number of lofty ranges or chains and
plateaus. The Rocky Mountains form the eastern chain of the
subdivision of the Cordilleras is the Sierra Nevada –
Pacific slope of the
eastern and western chains of the
to the western edge of the Sierra Nevadas, in
even in the vast, silent desert there are rich and prosperous towns which were
built where men found sufficient water. The
water that is brought down the mountains is stored in two natural lakes –
1848, when gold was found in the river beds of