アメリカ中西部での生活、仕事、英語、スポーツ、文化に関する草の根評論
英検一級失格者がアメリカで生活できる理由-----英語現場の平易な“普段”の英語表現
英検一級に、とうてい届かないアメリカ在住者です。アメリカに19年いても、英検一級の単語テスト(ネット模擬テスト)をしてみると、6割位しか正解がありません以前のエントリーから)。


しかるに、何故当方のような者が英語圏で生活出来ているのか?これの解として、こちら英語圏で”普段”使われている英単語が、そんなに難解なものは使われていないという事があります。これは以前からこのブログでも指摘してきました。

これは、日本にいるとなかなか感覚がつかめないかと思います。話し言葉にしても、書き言葉にしても、メディアを媒体とすると、特に日本人向けの英語紹介メディアは、Literacy(読み書きの能力)を要求されて”普段”以上の表現になり、単語使用もしゃれた方に難解な方に向かいがちです。

しかし英語現場の地元にいると、日常平易な英語、単語に囲まれているか良く分かります。本日、取り上げるのは、最近の地元ルイビルの新聞の記事ですが、これも易しい単語で組み立てられています。これの記事で、当方の単語力を図ってみました。

その結果は、当方の単語把握の率は約99%(1,788単語中20単語不明のみ)でした。

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(地元新聞の記事”GE rewards healthy habits”より)

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(地元新聞の記事”GE rewards healthy habits”本文)

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(地元新聞の記事”Obama visits Indianapolis”より)






平易な地元新聞記事

巻末のコピーの記事は(写真も添付)、こちら地元Louisvilleの新聞の中にあったものです。地元の優良企業GE(ジェネラル.エレクトリック)で取り組んでいる医療費の問題を記事にしたものです。

高沸し続けるアメリカの医療費。国の医療保険制度の殆ど無いアメリカでは、個人はもとより各企業にも負担が押し寄せています。各企業は、保険会社とタイアップしてその低減化にあれこれ策を練っています。GEほどの優良企業でも事情は同じで、その取り組みを記者が取材レポートしたのがこの記事です。

それはともかく、この記事を当方が読んでいき、分からない単語に印をつけていきました。写真のなかでは、蛍光インク、下記記事コピー中ではカッコでしるしをつけています。その結果は、結構長大な記事、且つ、医療保険問題という易しくない問題を扱った記事でしたが、当方の単語把握の率は約99%(1,788単語中20単語不明のみ)でした。

ここで、その当方の不明だった単語を上げておきましょう。
Binge
Galvanize
Mammograms
Pervasive
Catastrophic
Shove
Stake
Renovate
Dear
Conjecture
Hype
Cope
Laude
Vigorous
Preponderance
Subsidize
Incarceration
Sedentary
Regimen
Petite

英文を読解するのに、不明単語が何パーセントまでであれば支障が無いのか、というのは研究者により解明されているのかもしれませんが、当方の場合この記事の事例(1%不明)は問題なく読み進められました。

地元新聞の記事はそう難しくないという傾向は他の記事でも同じようで、政治向きの記事、オバマ大統領がその経済政策の誇示にインディアナを訪問した時の記事では、単語把握率は100%でした。これはやや短い記事で、約500文字の記事でしたが、不明な単語は無いという結果でした。

最大公約

これは、両方の記事は地元の記者によって書かれており、地元の読者を意識しています。この記事は、ネイティブとはいえ、そうそうLiteracy(読み書きの能力)が高い読者ばかりとは限らず、最大公約的なまとめ方をする必要があったのでしょう。そういう観点から書かれているようです。

そういうことで、ネイティブでもなく英検一級に通りそうに無い当方でも、結構な単語把握率となっています。これが、当方がこちらで生活できている所以なのでしょう。これは会話言葉になると、もっと平易な単語のオンパレードとなり、且つ、会話言葉は、聞き返しや言い換えが出来るので、英検一級失格者でももっと容易に生活出来ていきます。

英語マスターの方法として、“エコノミスト”や“タイム”等の雑誌を読む事があります。これらの雑誌は確かに難解で、当方には簡単には読めません。しかしこれは、該当する読者が国際ビジネスや国際政治を扱う、いわば違う世界の人達で、英語現場の入り口や中ほどにいる当方らの目指す方向とは違うような気がします。

そんな事よりも、この地元新聞の記事に表れる易しい単語表現を、上手く使いこなす事の方が、英語現場でうまくやっていく一番の方法だろうと思います。



英検一級失格者の当方ですが、なんとか英語圏で生活しているこの不思議。ご理解頂けたでしょうか?

(尚、下記の添付記事は、医療保険の問題を扱っていますので、その背景が分からないとやや難易度が高くなると思います)


(新聞記事”GE rewards healthy habits”のコピー)

Back from maternity leave last fall, General Electric's Kristy Leonard found her staff of 12 finance professionals fiercely competing to log the most steps on pedometers as part of a contest for cash prizes.

Leonard joined the wellness program, a companion to the high-deductible health insurance GE offers white-collar workers. To earn extra points, she regularly checked her vitals and weight at an office “HealthStation.” That is how Leonard, 33, said she found out in February she had high blood pressure.

That revelation “was a wakeup moment,” Leonard said, adding she has lost 9 pounds since and will earn the maximum $500 in annual fitness rewards this year.

Examples like these are the goal of a new wellness (binge) and health insurance strategy at Appliance Park and elsewhere within GE Appliances and Lighting. Looking to (galvanize) workers into getting healthier and reducing health-care costs, GE offers both the carrot of cash rewards and the stick of potentially costly health insurance.

In trade for lower health-care premiums, 2,100 salaried workers now face stiff annual deductibles of up to $4,000 and must pay 20 percent of health-care costs after that. After deductibles are paid, employees' costs are capped at between $3,500 and $5,500.

In large part, co-pays for doctor visits and minimal co-pays for many prescription drugs are a thing of the past at Appliance Park and elsewhere within Appliances & Lighting.

Annual physicals and some preventive care, like (mammograms), are covered 100 percent. The white-collar workers still qualify for nominal co-pays for critical drugs to treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease and the like. Employees can use pretax savings accounts to be prepared for health problems.

Contract talks are scheduled to begin this month between GE and its largest unions. Both sides expect the main issue will be a company proposal that union members adopt the same health-care plan. GE's four-year contract with its largest unions expires June 19.

Employers offering only high-deductible health plans, also known as “consumer-driven health insurance,” are at the front of an increasingly (pervasive) trend, said Chris Ryan, chief marketing and strategy officer at SHPS, a Louisville-based benefits-administration consulting firm with corporate customers nationwide.

“Of our clients, probably about 50 percent of them over the next three years will be moving to a full replacement where they only offer a high-deductible health plan,” Ryan said, adding his company switched within recent years to the consumer-driven model.

The only plan health insurer Humana offers its own employees carries a high deductible, spokesman Tom Noland said. Monthly premiums tend to be lower for high-deductible plans overall, he added.

Out-of-pocket concerns

Still, the concept is not going over well with officials at GE's largest union, where workers now pay $15 to see their family doctor and $25 to visit a specialist, on top of a monthly premium for a family of about $360 a month, union officials say.

“This is nothing more than (catastrophic) insurance,” IUE/CWA Local 761 President Jerry Carney said of the plan. “The average worker will pretty much be paying everything out of his pocket.”
GE's salaried workers can use pretax dollars for health savings accounts to save up for the high deductibles.

Deductibles are tied to income and for most employees range between $800 and $2,000 annually.
The most popular high-health-care-deductible family plan offered to GE's salaried workers costs $230 a month, which is lower than the $360 monthly insurance premium for family coverage with the union workers' plan now.

Salaried workers who choose this plan face a $2,000 annual deductible, $1,000 of which is paid by GE. After that, workers pay 20 percent of health-care costs, subject to an annual $3,500 cap.
But Carney noted that newer factory workers at Appliance Park who earn about $13 per hour cannot afford to pay between $800 for single workers and $2,000 out of pocket for family health care each year.

“If they want to talk about people getting healthier, then make sure they don't have to make a choice between eating and getting their health care. GE is living in a fantasy world,” he said. “If we hadn't been a union, GE would have (shoved) this down our throats like they did the salaried people.”

As a self-insured company, GE pays all health-care-related costs for employees. Benefits are administered via Anthem Blue Cross or UnitedHealthcare. At GE Appliances & Lighting, which is headquartered in Louisville, health-care costs “have been advancing between 8 to 10 percent annually,” spokeswoman Kim Freeman said.

There is no doubt health-care costs are growing for companies overall. In 1990, Ryan said, health-care costs amounted to 1 percent to 2 percent of overall employee compensation. Today, he said, those costs account for about 8.5 percent on average.

“We need employees to have a greater (stake) in the cost of their decisions and be informed, active consumers who are in charge of their health care,” Freeman said. With the new wellness programs and health-care insurance strategy, GE aims to hold its annual health-care cost increases to 3 percent. That is roughly the same as inflation.

“We are about 15 months into the program, so it's too early to tell if we will see savings in health-care costs,” GE spokesman Jeff Caywood said.
Although the GE Appliances & Lighting division as a whole is profitable, the Appliance Park complex lost $55 million last year, Freeman said.

So far 40 percent of Appliance Park's 2,100 white-collar and 2,000 blue-collar employees are enrolled in the program that offers rewards of up to $500 annually for changing their lifestyles, losing weight and checking vital signs at computerized HealthZone weigh stations at the office. Before undergoing a medical procedure or purchasing drugs, workers can weigh costs for doctors, hospitals and procedures via a new internal company website.

The wellness programs have found acceptance at Appliance Park. Cash rewards for exercising are prompting some skilled-trades workers to walk more, instead of riding scooters between buildings, union electrician Larry Thompson said.

“In general, people just want to be healthy. GE is giving us the opportunity to do it. Not every company offers programs like this,” said Thompson, 37, adding that he eats more vegetables, brown rice, baked chicken and baked fish as a result of $5 specials at the (renovated) company cafe.

But Thompson added that many fellow blue-collar workers who assemble washers, dishwashers and other appliances fear their health benefits are about to become very (dear) in the next contract.
“It is scaring everybody out here, the thought of dealing with that new insurance,” said Thompson.

Tarnished perception

Driven by rising health-care costs, companies have pressed wellness programs into use for decades in the workplace. Along the way, their reputation has suffered from the perception, and frequent reality, that they fail to deliver tangible bottom-line results.

Health programs in the workplace are tarnished by “(conjecture), empty claims, false hopes, marketing (hype) and overall ‘happy talk,' related to wellness,” said Michael P. Muldoon, executive director of Health Enterprises Network, a nonprofit trade group of 188 health-care-related companies in the region. “The average employer is tired of all these claims.”

Wellness programs are experiencing a renaissance now, Ryan said, because they are crucial in helping workers (cope) with high-deductible health-care insurance.

At a recent seminar highlighting companies that have reduced health-care costs, participants agreed that wellness programs become effective when healthy habits become part of the office culture. In Kentucky, making healthy choices at work becomes even harder against some of the highest obesity, smoking, diabetes and cancer rates in the nation, Muldoon added.

“If you are healthy in this state, you are constantly fighting,” Muldoon said. “People outside the health world still need to be convinced this is something important to do.”

Between 25 percent and 30 percent of all corporate health-care costs fund treatment for preventable diseases and behaviors like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, physical inactivity, heart disease and smoking, according to a 2009 American Heart Association report.

For its efforts so far, GE Appliances & Lighting was (lauded), Caywood added, by the American Heart Association as a “Fit Friendly” company, for promoting tobacco cessation, stress reduction, disease detection, good nutrition and workplace behavior that supports these goals. AHA criteria also recommend at least 30 minutes of (vigorous) exercise daily.

GE is investing $1 billion at Appliance Park to manufacture energy-efficient appliances like a heat-pump water heater, washers, dryers and dishwashers in Louisville. That massive investment includes a renovated and expanded medical clinic on site; a new gym with Zumba, yoga and other classes; healthier cafeteria fare; and in-house promotions that celebrate employee achievements like running in Saturday's Derby Festival mini-Marathon.

Small changes count too, Stone said. At the Newburg Road complex, the effort includes an overhaul of vending machines, which now have few sugary sodas among a (preponderance) of bottled water, diet soda and low-calorie sports drinks.

GE yielded to popular will in some instances, she added.

“We could not take away Mountain Dew,” Stone said of the high-caffeine soft drink. “But we did make soda more expensive at $1.25 than bottled water at $1.”

Along the way, cafeteria volume has doubled, and sales of fried foods have dropped 50 percent, Stone said. To keep healthy food, like grilled sandwiches and the salad bar, more affordable, GE (subsidizes) those entrees so they're cheaper than fried fare, she added.

“I call it stealth health,” Stone added. “Someone will not get a heart attack or diabetes. We are talking about cost avoidance.”

More pedometers

With the chance to earn cash awards, GE employees increasingly are wearing pedometers to log a minimum 6,000 steps daily.
“It looks like a home (incarceration) tag,” GE engineer Sherry Brockman joked of the pedometer on her ankle. Wearing the device regularly alerted Brockman that she was mostly (sedentary) on Wednesdays, when she goes to church at night. To compensate, Brockman said she makes more of an effort to exercise on Wednesdays.

Compared to when she started at Appliance Park two decades ago, there is a “real change in culture” around health, Brockman said. “Years ago it was all about having cookies and brownies at every meeting to get people to come. There was no mention of exercise, no mention of health.”
Pedometers have become so popular, she added, “it's not uncommon to see people taking steps while they are just talking to someone.”

HealthAhead awards extra “HealthMiles” when employees lose weight, achieve lower body mass or lower their blood pressure. The program, open to workers' spouses or same-sex partners, costs $36 to enroll.
The new workplace regimen is a natural fit for GE's competitive culture, Leonard said.

“If you work at GE, you are a little more disciplined anyway. You do not allow things to not meet a certain spec,” added the petite mother of two.











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