i‑Learner Education Centre

Teacher Diaries

Teacher Diaries: Ms. Alison – Love Speaking

Several different teachers have shared their tips and experiences with regard to speaking in a second language in an everyday context. Here I would like to talk about another situation where effective speaking is of paramount importance – public speaking. Thinking of speaking in front of a large crowd, has the scene of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. giving his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech or Barack Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ speech immediately popped into your mind? The fact is, the most likely occasion that you’ll need to speak in public throughout your entire life is when you give a presentation at school or at work.

Speaking or giving a presentation in public in your mother tongue can be nerve-wracking, not to mention doing it in a foreign language that you feel less comfortable with. When I was at university, I had to give countless presentations for my business subjects. I had a hard time suffering from glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking (self-diagnosis, though). Heart racing, palms sweating, feeling nauseated…I would start feeling intense anxiety the night before the presentation cramming my script.

To get over stage fright, I abandoned my usual practices. I started preparation work a few more days earlier, instead of memorising the full script; I just thought briefly what to say for every slide and rehearsed a few times by heart. I allowed myself to improvise and only refer to the keywords on the slides when necessary. If you are no longer bound by the urge to speak every word of the script you’ve prepared, you can actually give a more natural delivery than you can ever imagine! I believe most people are hardwired to worry about how people around think about us, and this is what constitutes our fear during the presentation. For this, you have to rationalise yourself – Do you ever care about how others do when they are delivering a presentation? Do you tease them when they’re unable to speak as fluently as a native speaker? NO! What you need to do is just to keep this in mind even during your speech, be brave and maintain eye contact with your audience. Lastly, don’t be too aware that you are actually giving a speech and in a second language!