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AS IT IS - Five New Year's Resolutions for English Learners

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Volkswagen introduces the Volkswagen e-Golf electric car at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Volkswagen introduces the Volkswagen e-Golf electric car at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Welcome back to As It Is. I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

Today we are talking about the future. More specifically, about the future of cars and driving.

VOA reporter Mike O'Sullivan visited the Los Angeles Auto Show in California. He says that technology is transforming cars.

For instance, the costly car company BMW is now selling electric vehicles.

The electric i3 model is made with lightweight carbon fiber. It also has the latest electronics to make driving safer.

The i3 includes a camera that lets the driver see the area behind the car. The camera also helps drivers with parking and changing lanes. The electronic system can also prevent drivers from crashing their car.

Theresa Moriarty works for BMW. She drove reporter Mike O'Sullivan through Los Angeles. She says using the brakes to stop or slow down helps add power to the battery.

"Any time you're not accelerating, the regenerative braking kicks on and the car will slow, adding some energy back to your battery."

"Blue tooth is connecting."

The company General Motors, or GM, has built a Cadillac model that uses both gasoline and electricity. Stuart Fowle works for GM. He says the system lets drivers start the car when they are away from it. It also lets them see what is happening with the car from anywhere in the world.

"The smart phone app we have allows you to check your tire pressures, check your oil level or your oil life. It allows you to check your fuel level, how much range you have on that tank of fuel."

Owners of large groups of cars or trucks -- called fleets -- use technology to stay in contact with their vehicles. Joshua Turner works at Sprint Velocity, which helps create those connections.

"If, for instance, a fleet vehicle were to experience a flat tire, the system in the vehicle would be able to transmit that to the appropriate repair technician, and then also alert fleet management when that vehicle was able to come back online."

Cars can already tell drivers where they can get fuel, as well as the cost of the fuel. David Jumpa works for Airbiquity. His company sells online vehicle services in 50 countries. Mr. Jumpa says cars will soon be able to share information with each other.

"Information that there's ice on the road ahead, right, based on the information the previous car just passed up."

Cars cannot yet talk to one another. But Mr. Jumpa says they will be able to in the future, as they become even more connected.

And speaking of the future, we looked for 2014 this week.

Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble talk to English teacher Lida Baker about five things people who want to improve their English can do in the New Year.

Lida Baker
Lida Baker

LIDA BAKER: "My first resolution that I would recommend people make is to spend a certain amount of time listening to English -- and it can be five minutes a day or it can be 10 minutes a week or it can be whatever suits a person's work schedule, life schedule or whatever. But it's really important to set goals and to stick to them. And it would be very helpful if people had Internet access to do this, because what I'm going to recommend is listening to sites that have scripts included. "

RS: "What do you do if you don't have access to a computer, how can you listen better?

LIDA BAKER: "Well, almost everyone all over the world has access to pop music. And one of my resolutions would be to spend time listening to English music. The advantage of listening to music is that it's a really wonderful way to work on your pronunciation, because you get a feeling for the stress and the rhythm of the language when you're singing. And also music is full of idioms, so it's a terrific way to learn colloquial vocabulary and to work on your pronunciation. And a third advantage of listening to music is that it's really easy to remember.

"So for people who have access only to a radio, even they can do something to improve their English just by listening to pop music. And I might add, if you do have access to the Internet, there are lots of Internet sites that will give you the lyrics to pop songs. Do a search, type 'music' or 'songs' plus 'lyrics,' and you'll find sites where you can type in the name of the song and it will give you the lyrics to the song.

RS: "So spend a little bit more time listening, or have a goal for listening. Listen to English music. What else?"

LIDA BAKER: "Something else I tell my students, and they're always surprised when I tell them this, is read children's books."

AA: "That makes sense, though."

LIDA BAKER: "Yeah. Why do you say that?"

RS: "Well, few words."

AA: "It's simpler."

RS: "Direct, simple. Lots of pictures."

LIDA BAKER: "There you go."

RS: "That puts it in a context."

LIDA BAKER: "There you go. And the other thing is, you can find children's books at all levels. If you were a total beginner in English, you start with books that have just a few words on the page and lots of pictures, and you can work your way up to books that have relatively speaking more text and fewer illustrations. But again, children's books are very motivating. To this day I enjoy reading the books that I read to my daughter when she was a little girl."

AA: "So now we've got the listening to the radio, listening to music, going online and looking for scripts of programs to go with the audio, reading children's books. What's your next resolution?"

LIDA BAKER: "Learn a new word every day. And if you don't have time to do it every day, do it every other day. Again, pick a realistic goal. Choose your word, look up the meaning, but then don't stop there. Look at the examples in the dictionary for how the word is used. Is it used as a noun? Is it a verb? Is it used to talk about people? If it's an adjective, does it have a positive meaning or a negative meaning? So look for what's called the connotation of the word. And then, when you're sitting in your car, or you're walking to the bus stop or sitting on the bus, practice. Put the word into your own sentences. Think of ways that you could use that word.

"And so now we come to our last resolution, which in a way is the most difficult one, because my last resolution would be, even if it's only very occasionally, talk to native speakers every chance you get."

And that's As It Is. I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

Thanks for listening. If you would like reach us, send an email to learningenglish@voanews.com.

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