Thursday, February 5, 2009

Japanese Use Obama's Speeches to Learn English

When Senator Barack Obama delivered his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, America sat up and listened. Here was a confident young black man communicating perhaps the clearest, most inspiring vision for the future of the country many had ever heard. Here was someone who eschewed the double-talk and dumb-speak of the typical DC politico.

From the convention floor to the White House, Barack Obama has flown on wings of well-chosen words. He has written three best-selling books and delivered innumerable speeches, all notable for their thoughtfulness and masterful use of language.

The rest of the world has sat up and listened, too. In fact, the Japanese people have bought more than 420,000 copies of "The Speeches of Barack Obama" since its release on Nov. 20 -- an "unprecedented huge hit" for an English-language text, according to publisher Asahi Press. Why? To memorize his words as a way to learn English and master their pronunciations.


Although the simplicity of campaign speeches makes them an obvious choice as a language-learning tool, other American presidents have rarely been so feted.

"We don't publish every single president's speeches," Asahi Press official Yuzo Yamamoto said. "Would you buy the text of former President George W. Bush's speeches?"

One shudders at the thought.

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