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At the beginning of the 20th century Bernard Shaw said that America and Britain were two nations divided by a common language. Do Americans and Englishmen really speak the same language? It isn't only the question of accents. Spelling, grammar and vocabulary are different on the other side of the Atlantic, too. The differences in spelling are well-known, for instance, the words like "colour", "neigh­bour " and "honour" are spelt (or "spelled" —Am.E.) without the "u" in the USA; the word "grey" has the "a " instead of the "e"; American English favours -er, while British English -re, as in "theatre/theater" and "centre/center" and so on.

Some differences in the vocabulary could lead to amusing situations. An Englishman and an American can never meet if they agree to meet on the "first floor" of a building. The British person will be waiting one floor above the entrance and the American on the "ground floor". When an Englishman goes on his "holidays", an American will go on his "vacation"; and whereas an Englishman will have a misfortune to be "ill in hospital", an American will be "sick in the hospital".

Americans are usually more ready to accept new ideas and new customs than their British cousins, and the same goes for new words. However, in some cases the British seem to be more modern in their use of English than the Americans. Some American English dates back to the language of the Pilgrim Fathers and hasn't been changed since the 17th century. For example, the word "fall" in the meaning of "autumn " is considered archaic in Britain but is used in America.

Both American and British English owe a lot to languages from other countries, and the words that have been absorbed into these languages tell much about the histories of Britain, America and the whole world. Many "English" words used in Britain actually come from the countries of the British Empire, such as "dinghy" - a small boat, or a "bungalow" – a house on one level, both came from India. American English has words taken from all the different nations which have contributed to the formation of North America: "hooch" – an American Indian word for "whisky", "a cockroach" (the home insect) originally came from Spain, "dumb" (stupid) and "boss" (chief) are the gifts from the Dutch, while Americans owe "hamburger" to the Germans. There are also regional dialects in American English which are often difficult for foreigners who think they know "English", for exam­ple. Southern "drawl", Texan "twang", etc. Even in New York you can hear a different dialect in Bronx or in Brooklyn. Teenagers often like to use a lot of slang ,along with expressions such as “like” and “you know”, which can make their way of talking seem vague . The words they choose are strongly influenced by popular music and fashion.

Differences in grammar are not so numerous, though Americans use some tenses and the verb "to have" differently. They say "I just did it" and "Do you have a computer?" while the British would say "I have just done it" and "Have you got a computer?"




Elementary School and High School

There are three basic levels in the U.S. educational system – elementary school, which usually goes from kindergarten to sixth grade; junior high school, from seventh through eighth or ninth grade; and high school, from ninth or tenth through twelfth grade.

The school year is nine months in length, beginning early in September and continuing until about the fist of June, with a vacation of week or two at Christmas time and sometimes a shorter one in spring. There are slight variations from place to place. Students enter the first grade at the age of six and attendance is compulsory in most states until the age of sixteen or until the student has finished the eighth grade.

The elementary schools tend to be small. The high schools are generally larger and accommodate pupils from four or five elementary schools. A small town generally has several elementary schools and one high school.

Admission to the American high school is automatic on completion of the elementary school. During the four-year high school program the student studies four or five major subjects such as English, math, history, and science. They must also take classes in physical education and a foreign language. Then they can usually choose an elective in subjects like art or music.

A student starting high school is called a freshman and becomes a sophomore in the second year. Eleventh-grade students are called juniors, and twelfth-grade students are seniors.

At the end of term students get a grade of A, B, C, D, or F (fail) for each subject. Grades are based on test scores, class participation, and class and homework assignments. As they finish each class in a subject, students get a credit. When they have enough of these, they can graduate.

To graduate from high school, students have to complete a course of study that leads to a diploma. Anybody who wants to go to college must have a high school diploma and take the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). The SAT checks math and English-language skills through multiple-choice questions marked by computer.

But those who believe that American schools are more fun than work overlook an important fact: a high school diploma is not a ticket that allows someone to automatically enter a university. Standardized examinations play a decisive role in the admission to most colleges and universities. Students who wish to go a good university have to work hard. During studies any student can be asked to leave because of poor grades.

Universities and colleges

Forty-one percent of high school graduates go to college. Students pay tuition to study at public and private universities but fee is higher for those who come from outside the state. Some of them have scholarships to help with the cost of tuition. Even with a scholarship, higher education is very expensive; many families take out loans to pay for their children's college education.

A full-time undergraduate degree (a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science) usually takes four years. A Master of Arts or Master of Science degree may be 1 obtained in one or two additional years. The highest aca­demic degree is the Doctor of Philosophy. It may take any number of years to complete the original research work necessary to obtain this degree. Many students study part-time, so it may take them much longer to finish. Some students take an associate's degree at a community college, where the tuition fees are lower and study two more years at a four-year college to complete their bachelor's degree.

Most undergraduate students must take liberal-arts classes in English, math, history, and science. They choose a major in a subject such The University of California is one of the largest university systems in the world.

as business, education, or art in their third year of college or after they have completed half of their course work.



Answer the questions:

1.Where is the USA situated and how large is it?

2How many states is the USA made up?

3Why do the most of Americans live in the eastern half of the country?

4.What are the largest rivers?

5.What are the most important industries in the USA?

6.What do Americans mean when they say that their country is a democracy?

7.Why was the capital of the USA named “Washington, D.C.”?

8.Why does it look different from other cities?

9.What are the most famous buildings of the city?

10.If you could spend only one day in Washington which place of interest would you choose to see and why?

11.Do Americans and Englishmen really speak the same language?

12.From what countries have the words been absorbed into Americans English?

13.How many basic levels in the educational system of the USA and what are they?

14.What must a student do, if he wants to go to college?

15.Why do only 41% of high school graduates go to college?


1.What is the smallest state of the USA?

2.Two of the states of the USA are separated from the others. Which of them?

3.The word “HOMES” helps American children to learn the names of the Great Lakes. Try to guess how.

4.The most popular letter in the names of the USA states is “M”. Name at least 5 states beginning with this letter.

5.Who designed Washington?

6.In 1814 Admiral Sir George Cockburn was ordered by the US President to burn the Capitol and the White House. Can you guess why?

7.Minnessota is a Dakota Sioux word. What does it mean “place of the big hill” or “sky-colored water”?

8.Today “Levi’s” can be used to mean “blue jeans”. English has other words that like Levi’s, began as names of specific products, but now are used in a more general way. Do you know these words?

9.What is the classification of students who are studying at high school?

10. “The Valentine State” and “The Mother of Presidents” are the nicknames of two American states. Name them and explain why they were named so.

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