Monday, February 16, 2015


This blog is dedicated to all English as a Second Language learners. Here, you can find links for learning and practicing grammar, listening, reading, conversation and more. 
There's a lot to do here.  Visit here often!

John Robinson - Creator of this blog:

      Our beloved friend and CCSF instructor, John Robinson passed away at the beginning of 2015.  

      He is sorely missed by his colleagues and students, all of whom remember him with that gleam in his eyes, his great sense of humor and his ability to be totally focused on each person he was talking to.

      Not only was John a great teacher and human being, but he was also a well-respected playwright who produced plays in the Bay Area.

This is his introduction he had written about himself:

I have taught English as a Second Language for 45 years.  I loved the position very much because it brought me in contact with people from all over the world.  I experienced so much respect and effort from my students.  I equally wanted to give them  as much as I could. I learned from them also. I got the overwhelming sense that what links us as human beings is our astonishing capacity for curiosity about the world we live in.


  We are fortunate to have many of John's dialogues that he wrote for his English students. You can practice them by clicking on 'Grammartalk' or  'Dialogue Workout' as well as practice pronunciation with 'Index to Vowels' and 'Index to Consonants'.

The reading/listening exercises are excerpts from and credited to Voice of America and include comprehension questions John wrote up for students to use. These are sections on the right titled 'American Short Stories, History, Biography, Explorations, etc (all have the last word 'Index'). 

Friday, February 28, 2014

"Social Networks" from Voice of America.

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week on our program: the world of social media.

People use social networking sites to share ideas, opinions and interests. Millions post comments, videos, pictures, links and other content, or just follow what other users post.

People reconnect with old friends and classmates, and make new connections. Social networks are all about connecting friends and friends of friends, just like in the physical world.

Social media is a way to communicate one to many. But sites generally have a way for users to also send private messages and to control access to their pages.

Social media is still young and evolving. Take the example of Facebook. It was launched in two thousand four as a social network just for Harvard students. Then it opened up to all colleges. Then high schools got their own private pages.

Now anyone can join. Facebook said it had over two hundred fifty million active users as of July. And not everyone is happy about that. Karey is a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

KAREY: "I have kept my mom off of Facebook. She wants one, I said 'No, you can't have one.' It started out as a college thing and then high school students got it. The value of it decreases to me with like the wider amount of people. Like the older population that gets it, I'm not OK with that."

Ekin Oz is a seventeen-year-old exchange student from Turkey. She does not think older people should be on Facebook.

EKIN OZ: "I think it's so silly because like it's something for teenagers."

But a lot of older people would disagree that social networks are just for teenagers. About eighty percent of American adults use the Internet. A recent online survey found that half of them now belong to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Forrester Research says four out of five online adults use social media at least once a month. That includes almost everyone age eighteen to thirty-four. Now, the fastest growing group of users are people thirty-five and older.

That would include thirty-nine-year-old Evan Falchuk. He says he first heard about social media two or three years ago at a business meeting.

EVAN FALCHUK: "What I was really surprised by when I first joined was how many people were there who I knew.'"

Evan Falchuk is a lawyer. But he is president and chief operating officer of Best Doctors, a medical company in Boston, Massachusetts. He likes to use LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals.

EVAN FALCHUK: "I mean, I travel all over the world and have dozens of people that I meet every month and I get business cards from them. And you get back to your office and look at the business card and you say 'Who was that again? And what did we talk about?' I try to write notes, but it's very hard.

"Whereas if you connect with them on LinkedIn, now I've got not only the person's name and contact information, but I know what their prior jobs were. I know who they are connected to who I might know. You have a much richer way of connecting with this person than you otherwise would."

Evan Falchuk uses Facebook to connect with friends and family members. But not all share his enthusiasm for social media.

EVAN FALCHUK: "My wife is a little bit less of a social media user than I am. So I like to share things about what's going on. And we like to go out to dinner to different places, for example, and I like to share 'Hey we're at this place and this is what we had and it was good.' And then she is more private and says 'Well, I don't really want everybody to know where we are and what we're doing.'"

For couples in long-distance relationships, the main ways to communicate used to be phone calls, letters and visits. Now, they have texting, e-mail, instant messaging and video chat. Patricia is a student at Radford University in Virginia.

PATRICIA: "I was in a long distance relationship for about a year, and Skype really helped because you could actually see the other person when you are talking."

Skype is an Internet video and phone service that was just in the news. Its current owner eBay agreed to sell a sixty-five percent share to a group of investors for two billion dollars.

Ekin Oz uses Facebook and Skype to stay in touch with family and friends back in Turkey.

EKIN OZ: "I'm using Facebook to contact with my friends, I'm using Skype to contact with my family. Because I miss my family so much, I want to see them, their faces. It's much more important than friends."

But even a simple text message can mean a lot. Dan in Virginia is twenty years old. He will be in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend after joining the Marines. He says texting is good because it lets you communicate whenever you have time.

Not everyone in the military, however, is at ease with social media. The Marine Corps has banned the use of sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter on its computers. But the ban does not limit access on other computers.

Many service members use social networks to communicate with their families or with the public. The Defense Department has been writing a policy for all of the military on the use of social networking sites. Defense officials say they are aiming for a balance that will not compromise the security of operations or military networks.

Public officials recognize that social media has changed the way people communicate. The White House, for example, held a live discussion last Tuesday on its Facebook page. People watched and commented on a speech by President Obama that was broadcast to students nationwide from a Virginia high school.

Before the speech, a student at the school asked for advice about how to get the president's job.

BARACK OBAMA: "First of all, I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. And when you're young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff. And I've been hearing a lot about young people who -- you know, they're posting stuff on Facebook, and then suddenly they go apply for a job and somebody has done a search and, so, that's some practical political advice for you right there."

Experts say a good rule to remember is not to post anything you would not want your mother to see. But what if your mother -- or father -- is one of your "friends," as in a friend you accepted on Facebook?

Some parents use social media to communicate with their kids and to monitor their activities. This, in turn, has led to This is a site for sharing and laughing at things that parents have posted.

Ekin Oz, the exchange student from Turkey, has a different concern about privacy. She worries about cybercrime and the information that could be gathered about a person from different Web sites.

EKIN OZ: "I'm scared of copying my personal information to use, like my photos they can use for things which is not good for me, and I'm concerned about that. If someone write my name on Google they can find one picture from Facebook or something, but is it safe?"

By now most parents know about the dangers of sex offenders using social networks. But the computer security company F-Secure points out the risk even in posting information like vacation plans. Someone who wants to break into the house will then know when people are away.

And then there is the time issue. Jenn is a student at Appalachian State in North Carolina.

JENN: "I'm probably on Facebook a lot more that I should be. I'll go on sometimes to check it and then get right back off. And then maybe ten minutes later I'll be like 'Oh, well, I need to talk to so-and-so,' and so then I'll go back on it, every thirty minutes or something."

And how often does her classmate Karey check her page?

KAREY: "If it's like during school when things are busy, once maybe for like twenty minutes max. But then if it's like during the summer and I'm really bored, I don't have anything else to do, then it might be a little longer."

And Ekin?

EKIN: "I check my account at least one time a day. If I talk with my family, it's like an hour. But if I don't talk to them, just ten or twelve minutes at most."

And what about Evan Falchuk -- a frequent commentator on social media. How often does he check for updates?

EVAN FALCHUK: "It kind of happens in the background, because I have an iPhone which I love. And the iPhone has applications on it for each of the social media that we've been talking. And so I'm frequently looking at it or typing stuff or posting something. It feels like it's something I do continuously."

Some people like to write long entries in their blogs. On Twitter, each message, or tweet, is limited to one hundred forty characters.

Market researchers at Pear Analytics say they are big fans of Twitter. But in a recent study they declared that forty percent of the tweets captured over a two-week period were "pointless babble."

Evan Falchuk would agree that some people write things like "I am now sitting in the doctor's waiting room."

EVAN FALCHUK: "But most of the people on Twitter that I see are actually trying to have a substantive discussion -- a real conversation about topics that are interesting to them. So for me personally, I'm in the health care business and in America we're having this very important debate about health care. And I'm connected with hundreds -- actually I think maybe thousands -- of health care professionals or people with an opinion on health care or doctors or others who are constantly posting things to do with what's going on in health care."

Some people find answers through social media. Others find love.

A woman named Georgina says she used a social dating site because she was looking "for a higher quality of a mate." She was still looking when we talked to her. But she thinks the new technologies are a great way to communicate -- as long as people still show traditional respect for each other.

GEORGINA: "Back in the nineteen eighties when I was dating without computers, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging, people had to be more organized. They had to be home, and they had to stick to their plans, because you had no way of communicating with someone once you left for your destination.

"Nowadays, with the extremely fast mode of communication, people have the ability to be lazy and spontaneous and not organized, because they can text you at the last minute or call you wherever you are and say 'I'm not coming, change of plans.'"

Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Marisel Salazar, and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. You can share comments and find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at You can also find Special English on Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA.


1. A "substantive discussion" is "_____________________ ."
a: a tweet
b: a Facebook post
c: an email
d: a real conversation

2. Back in the 1980s, because there were fewer electronic methods for contact, it was ________________ .
a: easier to form relationships
b: more difficult to change plans at the last minute
c: easier to change plans at the last minute
d: more difficult to meet people

3. ___________________ is very nice for people who are in long term relationships but who are separated geographically because they can see and hear their partner in real time.
a: Facebook
b: Linkedin
c: Skype
d: Google

4. The Defense Department is worried about social network use by military service personnel mostly because of _________________ .
a: too much time squandered
b: security issues
c: exposure to leftist opinions
d: all of the above

5. Researchers says that the fastest growing group of users of social media are people ___________________ .
a: from outside the United States
b: under thirty-five years old
c: over thirty-five years old
d: who are students of computer science

6. Evan Falchuk, a lawyer, likes using Linkedin ______________ getting business cards from possible contacts.
a: more than
b: as much as
c: less than
d: much less than

7. Facebook began as a social network for ________________________ .
a: workers in a digital company
b: students at a college
c: military personnel
d: patients in a 12 step program at a hospital

8. __________________ Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, people can communicate about topics that are interesting to them.
a: Because
b: Even though
c: As long as
d: Owing to the fact that

9. Social networks are a good way to _____________________ .
a: connect with old friends
b: sell products
c: announce a schedule of classes
d: communicate with another person when privacy is not an issue

10. People using social media share ___________________ .
a: ideas, opinions, interests
b: post comments
c: post videos, links, and pictures
d: all of the above

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Slavery: A Short History" from VOA

This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States. Today, we tell about slavery, and how it affected the history of the United States. Slavery is one person controlling or owning another.  Some history experts say it began following the development of farming about ten thousand years ago.  People forced prisoners of war to work for them.  Other slaves were criminals or people who could not re-pay money they owed.

Experts say the first known slaves existed in the Sumerian society of what is now Iraq more than five thousand years ago.  Slavery also existed among people in China, India, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.  It expanded as trade and industry increased.

This increase created a demand for a labor force to produce goods for export.  Slaves did most of the work.  Most ancient people thought of slavery as a natural condition that could happen to anyone at any time.  Few saw it as evil or unfair.  In most cities, slaves could be freed by their owners and become citizens.

In later times, slaves provided the labor needed to produce products that were in demand.  Sugar was one of these products. Italians established large sugar farms beginning around the twelfth century.  They used slaves from Russia and other parts of Europe to do the work.  By the year 1300, African blacks had begun to replace the Russian slaves.  They were bought or captured from North African Arabs, who used them as slaves for years.

By the 1500s, Spain and Portugal had American colonies.  The Europeans made native Indians work in large farms and mines in the colonies.  Most of the Indians died from European diseases and poor treatment.  So the Spanish and Portuguese began to bring in people from West Africa as slaves. France, Britain and the Netherlands did the same in their American colonies.
England's southern colonies in North America developed a farm economy that could not survive without slave labor.

Many slaves lived on large farms called plantations.  These large farms produced important crops traded by the colony, crops such as cotton and tobacco.  Each plantation was like a small village owned by one family.  That family lived in a large house, usually facing a river.  Many separate buildings were needed on a plantation.  For example, a building was needed for cooking.  And buildings were needed for workers to produce goods such as furniture that were used on the plantation.

The plantation business was farming.  So there also were barns for animals and buildings for holding and drying crops.  There was a house to smoke meat so could be kept safely.  And there was a place on the river from which goods were sent to England on ships.

The plantation owner controlled the farm and saw that it earned money.  He supervised, fed and clothed the people living on it, including the slaves.

Big plantations might have two hundred slaves.  They worked in the fields on crops that would be sold or eaten by the people who lived on the plantation.  They also raised animals for meat and milk.
Field slaves worked very long and hard.  They worked each day from the time the sun rose until it set.  Many of these slaves lived in extremely poor conditions in small houses with no heat or furniture.  Sometimes, five or ten people lived together in one room.

House slaves usually lived in the owner's house.  They did the cooking and cleaning in the house.  House slaves worked fewer hours than field slaves, but were more closely supervised by the owner and his family.
Laws approved in the southern colonies made it illegal for slaves to marry, own property or earn their freedom.  These laws also did not permit slaves to be educated, or even to learn to read.  But some owners permitted their slaves to earn their freedom, or gave them money for good work.

Other owners punished slaves to get them to work.  These punishments included beatings, withholding food and threatening to sell members of a slave's family.  Some plantation owners executed slaves suspected of serious crimes by hanging them or burning them alive.

History experts say that people who were rich enough to own many slaves became leaders in their local areas.  They were members of the local governments.  They attended meetings of the legislatures in the capitals of their colonies usually two times a year.  Slave owners had the time and the education to greatly influence political life in the southern colonies, because the hard work on their farms was done by slaves.

Today, most people in the world condemn slavery.  That was not true in the early years of the American nation.  Many Americans thought slavery was evil, but necessary.  Yet owning slaves was common among the richer people in the early 1700s. Many of the leaders in the colonies who fought for American independence owned slaves.  This was true in the northern colonies as well as the southern ones.

One example is the famous American diplomat, inventor and businessman Benjamin Franklin.  He owned slaves for thirty years and sold them at his general store.  But his ideas about slavery changed during his long life.  Benjamin Franklin started the first schools to teach blacks and later argued for their freedom.
Slavery did not become a force in the northern colonies mainly because of economic reasons.  Cold weather and poor soil could not support such a farm economy as was found in the South.  As a result, the North came to depend on manufacturing and trade.

Trade was the way colonists got the English goods they needed. It was also the way to earn money by selling products found in the New World.  New England became a center for such trade across the seas.  The people who lived there became shipbuilders so they could send the products to England.  They used local wood to build the ships.  They also sold wood and wood products.  They became businessmen carrying goods around the world.

The New England shipbuilding towns near the Atlantic Ocean grew quickly as a result.  The largest of these towns was Boston, Massachusetts.  By 1720, it had more than ten thousand people.  Only two towns in England were larger: London and Bristol.

More than twenty-five percent of the men in Boston had invested in shipping or worked in it.  Ship captains and businessmen held most of the public offices.
The American colonies traded goods such as whale oil, ginger, iron, wood, and rum, an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane. Ships carried these goods from the New England colonies to Africa. There, they were traded for African people.

The Africans had been captured by enemy tribesmen and sold to African slave traders.  The New England boat captains would buy as many as they could put on their ships.  The conditions on these ships were very cruel.  The Africans were put in so tightly they could hardly move.  Some were chained.  Many killed themselves rather than live under such conditions.

Others died of sicknesses they developed on the ship.  Yet many did survive the trip, and became slaves in the southern colonies, or in the Caribbean islands.  Black slaves were needed to work on Caribbean sugar plantations.  The southern American colonies needed them to work on the tobacco and rice plantations.

By 1750, almost twenty-five percent of the total number of people in the American colonies were black slaves. From the 1500s to the 1800s, Europeans sent about twelve million black slaves from Africa to America. Almost two million of them died on the way.

History experts say English ships carried the greatest number of Africans into slavery.  One slave ship captain came to hate what he was doing, and turned to religion.  His name was John Newton.  He stopped taking part in slave trade and became a leader in the Anglican Church.  He is famous for having written this song, "Amazing Grace".

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Paul Thompson.  This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long.  Join us again next week for another Special English program about the history of the United States.

Chinese New Year

from Factmonster

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014.
Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, people may take weeks of holiday from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year.

A Charming New Year
Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. RembrandtHarrison FordAretha FranklinChopinSandra Day O'Connor, and President Theodore Roosevelt were born in the year of the horse.

Fireworks and Family Feasts
At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

The Lantern Festival
In China, the New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other's homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year's Eve. In the United States, however, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, and found a sense of community through neighborhood associations instead. Today, many Chinese-American neighborhood associations host banquets and other New Year events.

The lantern festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.
In many areas the highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon—which might stretch a hundred feet long—is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets. In the United States, where the New Year is celebrated with a shortened schedule, the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend. In addition, many Chinese-American communities have added American parade elements such as marching bands and floats.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry from VOA

A Special Christmas Story: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. A husband and wife give each other the most special Christmas gift of all.


Now, the VOA Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.


We present a special Christmas story called "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.


One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it in the smallest pieces of money - pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by negotiating with the men at the market who sold vegetables and meat. Negotiating until one's face burned with the silent knowledge of being poor. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but sit down and cry. So Della cried. Which led to the thought that life is made up of little cries and smiles, with more little cries than smiles.

Della finished her crying and dried her face. She stood by the window and looked out unhappily at a gray cat walking along a gray fence in a gray back yard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy her husband Jim a gift. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result.

One Dollar and ...

Eighty-seven cents
Jim earned twenty dollars a week, which does not go far. Expenses had been greater than she had expected. They always are. Many a happy hour she had spent planning to buy something nice for him. Something fine and rare -- something close to being worthy of the honor of belonging to Jim.

There was a tall glass mirror between the windows of the room. Suddenly Della turned from the window and stood before the glass mirror and looked at herself. Her eyes were shining, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Quickly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, Mister and Missus James Dillingham Young had two possessions which they valued. One was Jim's gold time piece, the watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair.

Had the Queen of Sheba lived in their building, Della would have let her hair hang out the window to dry just to reduce the value of the queen's jewels.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a brown waterfall. It reached below her knees and made itself almost like a covering for her. And then quickly she put it up again. She stood still while a few tears fell on the floor.

She put on her coat and her old brown hat. With a quick motion and brightness still in her eyes, she danced out the door and down the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Madame Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." Della ran up the steps to the shop, out of breath.

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take your hat off and let us have a look at it."

Down came the beautiful brown waterfall of hair.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the hair with an experienced hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.


The next two hours went by as if they had wings. Della looked in all the stores to choose a gift for Jim.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. It was a chain -- simple round rings of silver. It was perfect for Jim's gold watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be for him. It was like him. Quiet and with great value. She gave the shopkeeper twenty-one dollars and she hurried home with the eighty-seven cents that was left.

When Della arrived home she began to repair what was left of her hair. The hair had been ruined by her love and her desire to give a special gift. Repairing the damage was a very big job.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny round curls of hair that made her look wonderfully like a schoolboy. She looked at herself in the glass mirror long and carefully.

"If Jim does not kill me before he takes a second look at me," she said to herself, "he'll say I look like a song girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?"

At seven o'clock that night the coffee was made and the pan on the back of the stove was hot and ready to cook the meat.

Jim was never late coming home from work. Della held the silver chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step and she turned white for just a minute. She had a way of saying a little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."


The door opened and Jim stepped in. He looked thin and very serious. Poor man, he was only twenty-two and he had to care for a wife. He needed a new coat and gloves to keep his hands warm.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a dog smelling a bird. His eyes were fixed upon Della. There was an expression in them that she could not read, and it frightened her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor fear, nor any of the feelings that she had been prepared for. He simply looked at her with a strange expression on his face. Della went to him.

"Jim, my love," she cried, "do not look at me that way. I had my hair cut and sold because I could not have lived through Christmas without giving you a gift. My hair will grow out again. I just had to do it. My hair grows very fast. Say 'Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let us be happy. You do not know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I have for you."

"You have cut off your hair?" asked Jim, slowly, as if he had not accepted the information even after his mind worked very hard.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Do you not like me just as well? I am the same person without my hair, right?

Jim looked about the room as if he were looking for something.

"You say your hair is gone?" he asked.

"You need not look for it," said Della. "It is sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It is Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it was cut for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the meat on, Jim?"

Jim seemed to awaken quickly and put his arms around Della. Then he took a package from his coat and threw it on the table.

"Do not make any mistake about me, Dell," he said. "I do not think there is any haircut that could make me like my girl any less. But if you will open that package you may see why you had me frightened at first."

White fingers quickly tore at the string and paper. There was a scream of joy; and then, alas! a change to tears and cries, requiring the man of the house to use all his skill to calm his wife.

For there were the combs -- the special set of objects to hold her hair that Della had wanted ever since she saw them in a shop window. Beautiful combs, made of shells, with jewels at the edge --just the color to wear in the beautiful hair that was no longer hers. They cost a lot of money, she knew, and her heart had wanted them without ever hoping to have them. And now, the beautiful combs were hers, but the hair that should have touched them was gone.

But she held the combs to herself, and soon she was able to look up with a smile and say, "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

Then Della jumped up like a little burned cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful gift. She happily held it out to him in her open hands. The silver chain seemed so bright.

"Isn't it wonderful, Jim? I looked all over town to find it. You will have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim fell on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let us put our Christmas gifts away and keep them a while. They are too nice to use just right now. I sold my gold watch to get the money to buy the set of combs for your hair. And now, why not put the meat on."


The Magi
The magi were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. They invented the art of giving Christmas gifts. Being wise, their gifts were wise ones. And here I have told you the story of two young people who most unwisely gave for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.



You have heard the American story "The Gift of the Magi." This story was written by O. Henry and adapted into Special English by Karen Leggett. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal. The producer was Lawan Davis.

I'm Shirley Griffith.


1. Jim and Della have very little ____________ .
a. time
b. affection
c. money
d. experience

2. The treasures of their house are Jim's gold watch and ____________ .
a. Della's combs
b. Della's long hair
c. Jim's silver chain
d. Jim's overcoat

3. In order to raise money for Della's gift, Jim ____________ .
a. works overtime
b. sells Della's hair
c. sells her combs
d. sells his gold watch

4. Della had a dollar and eighty-seven cents. 60 of the cents were ____________ .
a. all pennies
b. six dimes
c. a dime and two quarters
d. a quarter, a nickle and three dimes

5. The "Magi" in the story refer to ____________ .
a. meat and vegetable sellers who negotiate
b. wise men who gave gifts to the baby Jesus
c. shepherds who visited the birthplace of Jesus
d. purchasers of watch chains and long flowing hair

6. Neither of the presents Jim and Della gave each other were ___________ .
a. expensive
b. useful
c. important
d. beautiful

7. When Della sold her hair, she was afraid Jim would no longer think ___________ .
a. she was his wife
b. she loved him
c. she was beautiful
d. her hair would grow back

8. Della bought a watch chain. It was the perfect gift for Jim except that _________ .
a. Jim's watch was broken
b. Jim had a wrist watch
c. Jim no longer had a watch
d. Jim had given his watch to a friend

9. Another name for this story could be _______________ .
a. "A Poor Couple in NY"
b. "True Love Matters Most"
c. "The Best Deals for Christmas Shoppers"
d. "The Wisest Gift Givers"

10. This story is a mainly about a young married couple who ____________ .
a. gave with their hearts
b. can't afford Christmas
c. miss the chance to make each other happy
d. struggle to survive in New York

The following is a retelling of the story from Youtube: