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Monday
Fukushima to Run Out of Water Storage by 2022 Operators of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have predicted it will run out of storage space for radioactive water in three years.

The Tokyo Electric Company, or TEPCO, recently said the contaminated water will likely fill up all the plant’s available tanks by summer of 2022.

Three reactors at the Fukushima plant suffered meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami shut down the plant’s cooling systems. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The accident forced 160,000 people to flee contaminated areas near the plant and many never returned.

Since the disaster, radioactive water has leaked from damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the plant. The water is treated to remove harmful materials and stored in large tanks. But TEPCO has said the treatment process cannot remove all radioactive particles from the water.

Plant officials say more than one million tons of water is currently being stored in nearly 1,000 tanks. TEPCO says it plans to build more tanks to hold additional water. But even then, it predicts it will only be able to accept a total of 1.37 million tons. That would cause Fukushima to run out of space for water in 2022.

A government group studying future storage solutions have identified several possibilities for dealing with the continued supply of contaminated water.

One proposal would involve the controlled release of water into the Pacific Ocean. Some nuclear experts, including members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said they believe that plan is the most realistic.

However, fishermen and many people living in the area strongly oppose that proposal. They have said releasing the water into the ocean could cause widespread damage to Fukushima’s fishing and agriculture industries.

Additional methods under consideration include ground injection or converting the radioactive water to steam or hydrogen and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Some nuclear experts have warned that additional long-term storage might be necessary if officials cannot decide on any of the proposals under consideration. But this would require additional land and storage tanks to be built.

TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters the organization thinks contaminants produced from Fukushima work should stay within the plant area. He said long-term storage would delay other activities at the plant.

Matsumoto did not name a deadline for deciding what to do with the contaminated water. But he said he hopes to see the government lead public debates on the issue.

I’m Bryan Lynn.
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Tuesday
Norway May Have Found Radioactivity From Failed Russian Missile Norway is studying radioactivity in the air days after an explosion during the test of a rocket engine in Russia killed five people.

Norway’s radiation and nuclear safety office, known as the DSA, said it had detected small amounts of radioactive iodine at a research station in Svanhovd, near the country’s border with Russia. The radioactive substance was collected between August 9 and 12.

The accident took place August 8 in Arkhangelsk, an area in northwestern Russia.

The DSA said, “At this time, it is not possible to determine if the last iodine detectionis linked to the accident in Arkhangelsk last week.”

Measurements that find radioactive iodine happen six to eight times a year at the Norwegian observing station. The cause is usually unknown.

A mysterious explosion

The deadly accident took place at a naval testing area near the White Sea. It caused what has been described as a short increase in radioactivity in the area.

At the time, officials ordered people in a nearby village to leave. But the officials canceled the order soon after.

Russian officials have provided limited information about the incident.

At first, Russian Defense Ministry officials said that liquid rocket fuel had exploded, killing two people and wounding six others. It said no radiation had been released.

Two days later, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear agency Rosatom said that five nuclear engineers had been killed and three others injured. It said the explosion took place on an offshore platform during testing of a “nuclear isotope power source.”

The TASS news agency said victims of the accident were taken to Moscow for treatment.

Russian officials then closed part of Dvina Bay to shipping.

On Monday, the five engineers were buried in the western city of Sarov, home to Russia’s main nuclear weapons research center.

The administration of the city of Severodvinsk said radioactivity jumped to 20 times normal levels for 30 minutes before returning to natural levels on the day of the accident. Later reports said it took longer, about two and a half hours, for radiation to return to normal.

Officials said the short increase in radiation did not present a danger to public health.

Neither Russia’s Defense Ministry nor the nuclear agency Rosatom have identified the weapon that exploded during the test. However, observers believe it was a nuclear-powered cruise missile that the NATO alliance calls “Skyfall.”

The missile was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 during his state-of-the-nation speech. Putin said the weapon will be able to travel an unlimited distance without being noticed by missile defense systems. He said the missile had successfully undergone its first tests.

Critics, however, say such a weapon is difficult to deal with and could present a threat to the environment.

On Monday, United States President Donald Trump tweeted about the explosion. He wrote that it “has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”

Both the United States and the former Soviet Union worked on nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s. However, they ended research because the designs were too dangerous to operate.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
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Wednesday
Is the US Economy Nearing a Recession? Financial markets are giving warning signs of a recession. At the same time, the world economy is weakening, and the trade war between the United States and China has intensified.

All of which is raising concerns about the U.S. economy and about whether the country’s record-breaking, 10-year expansion is nearing an end.

On Wednesday, a change in interest rates caused many investors to worry: The interest rate on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond briefly dropped below the rate on the 2-year Treasury bond for the first time since 2007.

Usually, investors earn higher interest on longer-term bonds than on short-term ones. Put another way, the U.S. government will usually pay more interest to investors who are willing to let out their money for longer periods.

So, when longer-term Treasurys pay less than shorter-term ones, economists call it an inverted yield curve. An inverted curve suggests that investors expect the economy to slow so much that the U.S. central bank will soon feel forced to cut short-term rates to try to support the economy.

This is a sign of economic pessimism. Inverted curves are very good at predicting recessions: They have happened before in each of the past five recessions.

The inversion sent stock prices down a lot on Wednesday. The leading measure of U.S. stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, fell 800 points, or 3%. An inversion, however, does not say when a recession will arrive. In the past, there have been about two years between an inversion and a recession.

So are we nearing a recession?

Many economists worry that chances of a recession are rising. Julia Coronado is the chief economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives, which follows the U.S. economy. She sees a 40% probability of a recession within the next 12 months. Last month, she thought the likelihood was 30%.

Her concerns, and the worries of other economists, are partly the result of the U.S.-China trade war. The trade war appears to have persuaded many businesses not to expand or invest in new buildings and equipment. It is also harming Germany’s export-led economy, which shrank between April and June of this year. In addition, Britain plans to leave the European Union on October 31, while Japan and South Korea are having their own trade fight.

The U.S. government threatened new 10% tariffs on $300 billion of mostly consumergoods from China, but then announced a delay until December. That is because President Donald Trump and his administration do not want prices to rise before the Christmas holiday shopping season. If the tariffs began immediately, it would force stores to raise their prices.

For now, most other U.S. economic signs do not point to recession. Employers are adding jobs, the unemployment rate remains near a 50-year low.

An inverted yield curve is not enough to say for sure there will be a recession, explained Eric Winograd. He is an economist at investment and search service AllianceBernstein.

“I would want to see other signals that point to that, but we’re not seeing them right now,” he added.

What is a recession?

Generally, a recession is happening when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrinks for six months or longer. The GDP is the best measure of U.S. economic growth.

But that is not the official definition. The National Bureau of Economic Research is a private organization of economists that officially defines recessions. Those economists say a recession happens when there is a sharp drop in economic activity that lasts for “a few months.” They measure the fall by looking at different kinds of economic information, including GDP, wages and jobs.

The bureau makes its declaration of a recession after studying recent economic reports. So, the economy can actually be in recession for some time before it is officially declared so. The bureau, for example, declared in November 2008 that the Great Recession had begun 11 months earlier.

What do economists watch for?

The most important sign of a weakening economy is the weekly number of people who, for the first time, request unemployment assistance from the government. People can receive the aid if they have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. So, if that number is rising, it means businesses are cutting jobs.

Last week, the number was very low: 209,000.

Economists also look at factory activity since people stop buying cars, refrigerators and other large goods when they are worried about their jobs or the economy.

How severe might a recession be?

It is hard to know the effect of a recession, but many economists think it will not be that bad. That is because many American families are in a better financial position now than before the Great Recession during the late 2000s.

Household debt is lower, and U.S. interest rates are really low.

I’m Susan Shand.
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Thursday
North Korea to Develop Homegrown Beauty Market North Korea is asking its young, middle-class women to give up international cosmetics and use products made in their own country. The cosmetics campaign comes as international trade restrictions tighten, and products made in other countries become even more difficult to get.

Pushing homegrown beauty has been a political goal since the days of the North’s first leader Kim Il Sung. But the effort has become stronger under his foreign-educated grandson, Kim Jong Un.

Recent defectors and North Korea experts say the campaign is having some success because of the popularity of South Korea’s K-beauty movement. The K-beauty movement uses products with natural ingredients that are plentiful in both Koreas.

But North Korea’s attempt to create K-beauty products of their own has met with some quality issues. Manufacturers also have difficulty importing the few foreign ingredients that cosmetics require.

Leader Kim Jong Un once dismissed North Korean beauty products, saying they make “raccoon eyes,” reported the Japan-based Choson Sinbo newspaper in 2015.

But Kim has since visited cosmetic factories several times with his wife to popularize the products.

Earlier this year, North Korea’s state-run television KRT showed a video about Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory. It showed a woman replacing Chanel products with North Korean products.

“Lots of foreign customers living in the state visit our shop,” Yang Su Jong told Reuters on a rare visit to the capital last year. She is a sales assistant at Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory.

Chanel, in response to Reuters’ questions, said it did not export products to North Korea. It suggested the products were illegal copies.

First lady and a girl band

North Korea has long controlled its peoples’ appearance.

Blue jeans and clothes with writing in English were banned under Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. The closed country was trying to keep Western influences out.

But that has changed since Kim came to power in 2011. He and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, began making public appearances. Ri, a former musician, wore colorful clothing that appealed to a desire for self-expression, explained Nam Sung-wook. He is a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University.

“Kim Jong Un…gave rise to first lady Ri Sol Ju, who furthered the regime’s interest in cosmetics,” he said.

Kang Na-ra is one North Korean defector who said she used to buy South Korean cosmetics at private markets that help form the North’s informal market economy.

“I really wanted to copy (K-beauty) makeup…when I was in the North,” she said.

Today North Korean women are asked to wear the kind of clothing and makeup used by either the first lady, or the all-woman ‘Moranbong’ musical group. Moranbong is North Korea’s answer to South Korea’s popular K-pop music.

New markets and limits

Pyongyang Cosmetic Factory shipped some Unhasu brand cosmetics to a new store in Moscow in May, Russia media reported.

“Korean Care” is another Russian cosmetics shop selling South Korean products online. It started importing North Korean beauty products directly from Pyongyang last year.

The company targets Russian women and has more than 10,000 customers. It says the products are popular because of their natural ingredients.

“It was especially interesting because it’s North Korean,” said Margarita Kiselyova. She is a Russian customer who bought several products. “I am satisfied with the quality,” she added.

A major South Korean cosmetics company called Amorepacific tested 64 North Korean products. It found some had small amounts of harmful ingredients.

Amorepacific told Reuters it did not have additional details about the tests.

I’m Susan Shand.
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Friday
Get Ready for 'A Slap in the Face' Now, it's time for Words and Their Stories, a program from VOA Learning English.

Each week, we tell the story of words and expressions often used in American English. Some of them are old. Others are new. Together, they form a living language.

On today’s show, we will be talking about the act of hitting someone with the palm of your hand. We call this a slap!

Growing up, you may have experienced a slap or two. Do you remember how it felt? Probably not good.

And when the slap is on your face, the feeling is even worse! You often do not see it coming until the open palm lands on your cheek. The sting on your face can cause tears to well up in your eyes. It hurts. And you may feel insulted and offended.

And that brings us to today’s expression: a slap in the face.

Used as an expression, “a slap in the face” is not a physical act. It is a surprising action or comment that offends someone. A slap in the face is humiliating and can also cause disappointment.

Word experts say the expression dates back to the late 1800s.

It may have come from the idea of defending yourself against unwanted sexual attention. When that happens, you might slap that person across the face. Generally speaking, in the 1800s women would likely be the ones slapping men in those situations.

But the expression “a slap in the face” could also come from an old tradition between men – the duel. A duel is a contest with deadly weapons arranged between two people in order to settle a point of honor.

In the past, a man could challenge another to a duel by slapping him across the face with an empty glove. To protect his honor, or to save face, the slapped person must agree to the duel.

Today, the expression “a slap in the face” means an insult. More often than not, “a slap on the face” is done on purpose. It is intentional.

Now, let’s hear how to use “a slap in the face” in everyday life.

Imagine actors preparing for a big show.

Catherine is in the studio rehearsing her song. Then suddenly, Oscar bursts into the room. He is so angry he can barely speak. Catherine stops singing and stops the music.

Catherine: Oscar, I’m right in the middle of my big song. What’s the matter?
Oscar: Sorry, Cat. But I just got some really bad news.

Catherine: My name is Catherine. Not Cat.

Oscar: Can we please stop talking about you for a minute? The director is giving my part in the show to Manuel!

Catherine: What? Why?

Oscar: She said that Manuel is really talented and deserves to play the lead.

Catherine: Whoa. What a slap in the face! Your face, I mean.

Oscar: I know how that idiom works, Catherine. Thanks.

Catherine: So, what else did she say?

Oscar: She said that lately I’ve been very ‘unprofessional.’

Catherine: She must be talking about all those rehearsals you’ve missed.

Oscar: Perhaps.

Catherine: But the show opens in a week. What are you going to tell your friends and family?

Oscar: I have no idea. They’ve planned a big opening night party and everything. This is so humiliating. How can I face them?

Catherine: That’s going to be a huge loss of face … again I’m talking about your face.

Oscar: Can you stop with the all these humiliation idioms?? They’re not helping!

Catherine: Sorry. But wow, what a blow.

Oscar: Cat!

What a blow, indeed. The director’s decision is certainly a major slap in the face. As we heard in the dialogue, you could also say that the news came as a blow to Oscar. In other words, the director’s decision was surprising, unwanted and hurtful. It did damage as a blow would do.

And Catherine really increased the tension with all of her idioms of humiliation.

And that’s all we have for you on today’s show. Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.
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