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高级美语教程第4课

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 Lesson 16 When is the best time

… However, when traveling, doing business, or studying in a German-or English-speaking country, it is a good idea to consider time to be of the utmost importance.

 

Many people have noted that the Germans and English are both methodical and well-organized. Naturally, not everyone among them is, but these peoples do seem to share a penchant for orderliness and punctuality. Clocks and time have played a great part in defining the character of the Anglo-Saxons. The geographic use of time began during the British Empire with the world divided by latitude and longitude, with zero degrees longitude running through the observatory at Greenwish, in London. According to the British of that day, the world began its time-keeping from London——and it still does. Time is of paramount importance to these Europeans and their overseas descendants. If you are visiting or staying in these countries, here are a few pieces of advice to help you make the transition to a time-centered civilization.

 

As you probably already know, being punctual——to the minute——is held in high esteem among them. Time is the most valuable commodity one can have, according to the doctrine of the time worshippers. We are not given very much of it whilst on this planet, and we should do our best to utilize it efficiently each and every day, they say. Wasting others' time by forcing them to wait if a sign of disorganized living, a sort of admission to being low-class. It is also seen as an insult to those kept waiting, as if to say, "Your time is not that important." To them, this attitude borders on sin itself In business, being late even only a few times may make the difference between your getting a promotion and being kept "in your place." For social dates, it is a sign of slovenliness at best, rejection of those waiting at worst. In school, never burst open the door of the lecture hall to announce, "I'm sorry I'm late, sir" as is the customin many countries. The double crime of being tardy and interrupting the proceedings which began on time occurs, with a likely prejudiced and unfavorable grade awaiting the hapless student.

 

Of course, being late can sometimes not be avoided, as in unexpected traffic jams, home emergencies, or having been given the wrong information of date or place. When these all-too-human mishaps do occur, it is important to explain the reason for being late. It is also a good idea, of course, to apologize for the useless waiting and to assure the other or others that it will never happen again. In this age of cell phones, every effort should be made to call ahead if tardiness of more than ten minutes is unavoidable, especially for business or professional appointments or important dates. The last phrase anyone wants to hear is a frosty "You could have called." That is the prelude to a ruined evening.

 

Not everything begins exactly on time, even in Anglo-Saxon culture. Many casual parties are "open" there. The same is generally true of backyard barbecues and picnics. Dinner parties, on the other hand,are obviously planned around a meal time one should make every effort to arrive on not before time. A friendly "Drop by this evening" invites common sense to interpret too early during the evening may embarrass the host who is eating dinner, while too late may disturb those who prefer going to bed early. A call first to make sure is never out of line.

 

Remember that time is relative in importance to people within a culture just as it is between cultures. Nothing is more important than human relations. If you commit the "crime" of being late with Anglo-Germanic friends, simply apologize. Few people intentionally keep others waiting, after all. Remember, too, that, "Wehn in Rome, do as the Romans do." In English-and German-speaking lands, this means "Time waits for no man"

 

Lesson 17 Precious and Semi-precious Stones

宝石和半宝石

 

"My! What a beautiful ring you're wearing" This compliment never fails to flatter and honor the lucky wearer of the ring or other pieces of fewelry bedcked with precious or semi-precious stones. Most people know the names of only some of these natural treasures. Many people are surprised to learn that all semi-precious stones can be bought inexpensively, not to mention that the precious stones can also be had for far less than one imagined. However, as with everything else in life, you have to pay for the best quality. This lesson will give the reader both information and tips on gem stones and their purchase.

 

Just what are precious and semi-precious stones The word semi refers to anything which is half or only partial this, semi-precious stones are not precious, by definition. Actually, some high-quality semi-precious stones are far more expensive than some low-grade precious stones, so the terms "precious" and "semi-precious" when applied to stones do not refer necessarily to their cost.

 

All authorities on gems agree that the diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald are precious stones. Some of these experts include the opal as a fifth precious stone while others consider the pearl in this class. The latter may surprise the reader, but on reflection, pearl are also a kind of stone, though organically produced by certain shellfish rather than by geologic forces.

 

Semi-precious stones include all other stones considered worthy of use in jewelry. The list of these stones is very long suffice it to say that there are several hundred such stones, though most people are aware of only a couple of dozen of their names, and few people can readily recognize more than a couple of any type of stone at all.

 

Diamonds and the colored stones ruby, sapphire, and emerald are often considered the most expensive among all stones. This is generally true, though qualityis more important than stone type on price. One can buy a "real sapphire" for US $10, but it would be considered not much better than junk to a feweler. These professionals consider several features of stones before assessing their value. Carat size, or the weight of the stone one carat= 200 miligrams is one such feature. The cut of the stone is another. Some styles of cuts are considered more costly than others besides, in the technical cutting of the gem form the rough stone, great care must be taken not to cut into or scratch the surface of the finished stone. The color is also important. Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, for instance, in order to fetch the highest prices, must be solid colored throughout. Finally, clarity or translucence, with neither streaking nor a "cloudy" inner appearance, also determines the final price. Gems with these qualities are far and few between, commanding nearly astronomical prices. A good fewleler will advise you of these characteristics and how to look for and evaluate them yourself. Also remember that for a gem ring or pendant, roughly 70% of the value of the piece of jewelry is in the primary stones, with the rest in labor and metal.

 

Specific names of semi-precious stones are too numerous to mention, but jade is well known to Chinese. The finest jade apple agree in color commands very high bids at auction. The trouble with semi-precious stones is that they are not so hard as precious stones so they far more easily scratch, crack, or chip. If this happens, the value of the semi-precious stones plummets. Diamonds, the hardest natural stone, and rubies and sapphires, the second hardest, are actually rather hard to deface.

 

Don't let anyone well you a "good deal on a gem" on the street. Go to several professional jewelers before committing yourself——and your money ——to a piece of jewelry with precious or semi-precious stones. Part of the value of that good piece of fewelry is the fact that it can be handed down generation after generation with increasing value. People in all cultures never seem to tire of the brilliance of gems.

 

Lesson 18 Hot Animals Around the World: The Koala

世界热门动物:无尾熊

 

Why are all those people standing in line in the hot sun at the zoo Maybe the zoo just opened a koala exhibit. With the suvival rate of native Australian koalas on the rise, more and more zoos around the world are adding a "koala house" or "koala exhibit" to their roster of special animals. And the people keep coming, whether merely to catch a glimpse of one or, if really lucky at zoos which permit it, to hold and be photographed with one.

 

Why are koalas among the most beloved of all animals At times referred to as "koala bear", this Australian marsupial is not a bear at all. It is one of the few tailless mammals beside the apes and man. Yet apes are not often considered cuddly indeed, they are often feared for being either too large or too naughty. This Australian real-life teddy bear, instead, is the best of all worlds it is quiet, soft, neither too large nor too small adults are usually 65 to 80 cm. long, and really cuddly With its soft fur, leathery nose, rounded ears, and big eyes, most people seem to melt when near one. Its disposition is perfect for children and adults alike it rarely makes a fuss, even when being held. Try that with a baby tiger!) No wonder the lines to see, hold, or just touch the koalas are always among the longest at zoos.

 

One reason zoos today are able to keep koalas is the rise in the koala population in its native habitat, the eucalyptus forests of southeastern Australia. This nation, famous for its unique fauna and flora, is now allowing applications for the professional export of its protected species to overseas zoological gardens. Once hunted for its fur, this arboreal leaf-eater is today protected by stringent laws and is making a slow but steady comeback. Indeed, everything about the koala seems slow. It sleeps more than 12 hours a day often much more, eats only choice leaves from eucalyptus trees which can now be grown in many zoos to provide the more than one kilogram of leaves that each adult koala needs per day, and rarely if at all descends to the ground because it is such a slow runner from wild Australian dogs called dingoes or from human hunters)。 As koalas are such a great draw for visitors, many zoos are trying to include them among their species.

 

Mother koalas give birth to babies only every other year. These young ones, as with other marsupials, spend a period of time inside the mother's "pouch" before venturing out into the world. In the case of the koala, this pouch is located below and in back of the mother the small koalas can climb out directly from the pouch and onto the mothers back before learning to feed and fend for themselves. With all other marsupials, the pouch is located in the front, perhaps most famously with the kangaroo, where the "joey" can sometimes be seen popping its head out of its soft, warm pouch to survey the world about it safely.

 

Until the 1980s, zoologists feared that the koala might go the way of some other rare marsupials. Just as their eucalyptus habitat was being destroyed to make room for the ever-increasing suburban Australians, diseases peculiar to koalas began to take their toll. Combined with weak or non-existent laws against the hunting or poaching of this national treasure, the koala seemed doomed to extinction. Today, the koala has climbed back from the brink of extinction and is thriving again. Its main enemy today is forest fires. This slow-moving mammal cannot move quickly enough to escape the deadly fires which perennially ravage the land. With more land being set aside to protect this and other Australian species, however, the future of much of this special land's animal wealth seems secure.

 

All animals deserve man's protection, but some animals seem to attract the attention they need. The koala, one of the symbols of the great Down Under, is one of these. Holding a koala is fun, educational, and inspiring. If Australians could cooperate to save this special species, mankind should be able to preven the extinction of all other animals, too.

 

Lesson 19 Asian Americans

In the last census conducted by the U.S. government in 1990, one fact caught manypeople by surprise the percentage of Asian Americans had grown faster than any other segment of the population. European Americans had, as expected, continued their slow decline in percentage of the total US population, though they were still dominant at about 76%. Black Americans had stabilized at about 12% of the population. Hispanics had continued their fast growth and were, at 9%, aimed at toppling Black Americans as the country's largest minority group. The growth in Asian Americans, however, surged from only 2% of the total US population in the 1980 census to 3% in 1990. By the year 2000 at least 4% of Americans will be of Asian ancestry.

 

This relatively huge increase has caught many demographers by surprise. Clearly a new force is developing in US demography, but few people seem to appreciate its implications. The Asian Americans are here and are here to stay, but exactly who are they, and what does their rapid increase mean for the country as a whole

 

As a multi-ethnic nation, it should not be surprising that Asian Americans are becoming an increasingly large and important sector of the "rainbow nation" some Americans prefer to think of their country as. Indeed, the only surprise about this segment growing so fast is why it has not occurred sooner. After all, Asia is home to 60% of all the people in the world. However, Asia is also a vast land, encompassing East, Southeast, South, and West Asia, each region significantly different from its neighbors. Further, there is no sense of unity within Asia, as there is, say, among European or Latin American countries. Indeed, the term "Asian Americans" is more a fiction of the European mind, since people from this area unfailingly refer to themselves as Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, etc, rather than as Asian-Americans.

 

For more than 100 years, three primary groups of Asians emigrated to the United States Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino. However, since the end of the Vietnam War, other groups from Asia have become increasingly prominent, especially those from Vietnam, Korea, and India. In addition, Iranians and Israelis from Southwestern Asia have also entered the US in large numbers.

 

The patterns of Asian immigration have changed greatly over the past 30 years. In 1970, 96% of Asian Americans were Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino as of 1997, this percentage had dropped to 55% In that year, 24% of Asian Americans claimed Chinese ancestry, 21% Filipino, and 10% Japanese. The "newcomers" among Asian Americans include the Indians at 13%, Vietnamese at 11%, and Koreans also at 11%.

 

What real numbers are we talking about There were estimated to be nearly 9600000 Asian Americans in the US in 1997. With such a high growth rate, there will be more than 10 million of them this year and perhaps 32 million in 2050 about 8% of the total US population at that time)。 Where do Asian Americans live Currently, an astounding 40% of this regional group lives in California. Other states with relatively large Asian American populations include New York, Hawaii, Texas, New Jersey, Washington the state, and Illinois which contains Chicago)。 Overall, the West is home to 54% of all Asian Americans, the Northest 19%, the South 16%, and the Midwest 11%.

 

What about future trends As Asian nations continue to prosper, it is likely that they will contribute more to US immigration, especially from Southeast Asia and India. All of these groups continue to have above-average birth rates. On the other hand, Chinese and Japanese Americans have very low birth rates consequently, the percentage of these ethnic groups among the total will continue to fall. All in all, America can look forward to an increasingly large number of Asians enriching their new home with their diligence, investment, and diverse cultural contributions.

 

 

Lesson 20 Scourge of the Plains: Tornadoes

平原之祸——-龙卷风

 

Ellen Mae stepped out of her two-story home in certral Illinois. "Fine morning," sae said to herself after checking the weather, and then went back inside. The radio had mentioned a severe storm advisory, but the sky was clear, and it was rather calm. Still, she decided to be safe and kept her radio on.

 

About noon she felt a strange kind of pressure. Looking out her window, she noticed the sky had become overcast. Low, rounded, oddly colored clouds were forming. It was still and oppressive. "Maybe I'd better listen to the weather report again," she murmured to herself.

 

Again the radio forecast severe weather, warning citizens to listen for the siren and seek shelter should a twister, scourge of the plains, come down from the heavens like a "Devil's tail." "I doubt it'll happen over Crossville," she comforted herself. "It always happens in other towns."

 

By two o'clock it started to rain, and the wind picked up, too. The apple tree in front of Ellen Mae's house started to pitch back and froth violently. Her dogs started to bark and howl, and that was when she heard that awful sound.

 

At first she thought it was a locomotive, but she quickly remembered that there was no railroad within 20 miles of her home. She looked into the sky and then noticed it, a dark, swirling mass of back cloud sucking up everything it touched and hurling objects at horrific speeds straight up or straight to the side. Ellen Mae ran as fast as she could down into her storm cellar, a special room which had been prepared by her father when he was still alive. This room was located in the southwestern corner of the basement and had a door with a strong bolt. Ellen Mae ran in, locked the door behind her, and waited.

 

She didn't have long to wait. With shrieking and swooshing sounds right out of hell, the funnel cloud passed directly over her house. An enormous vacuum cleaner, the twister blew the house apart, scattering five generations of Ellen Mae's family belongings over half the rural country she lived in. Within minutes, the winds had stopped, and an eerie silence replaced the cacophony of moments earlier. Feeling it was now safe to venture out, Ellen Mae unbolted the door, peered out, and started to cry. She could look straight up into the sky. Even though she had lost her house and everything in it, she felt lucky. She knew that every year, hundreds of people could perish in tornadoes.

 

Just what are these "devil storms" They go by many names across the great Plains of the United States and Canada, not to mention many other countries around the world, but tornadoes are perennial plagues in central North America. The conditions there——flat land and proximity to cold air masses from the Rocky Mountains to the west and warm and humid air masses from the Gulf of Mexico to the south provide the optimum breeding ground for tornadoes. According to the US National Weather Service, tornadoes form from thunderclouds and can reach swirling speeds in excess of 600 kilometers per hour. They last from minutes to an hour or more and can blast their way across as much as 150 kilomiters of terrain at about 50 kilometers per hour. They vary in width from a few metres to 1500 meters average 200 meters)。 And they strike fear into the hearts of everyone.

 

The safest place to be when a tornado is in one's area is a basement, preferably the southwest corner where the tornado normally comes from)。 If driving, track due north or south, as tornadoes usually move from west to eat. Weather prediction and tracking these days is far superior to earlier years, but tornadoes can appear without any warning at all, as a large one did right in the heart of Salt Lake City in 1999, leaving a trail of shocked, wounded, and dead as well as pulverized property.

 

Though relatively few people have ever seen a tornado, those who have wish they hadn't. The "Finger of God" is nature's atmospheric fury at its worst.

 

 

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