More and more, speakers around the
world deliver talks i...
1Keep it simple: “When people want
to impress an audience, they overcom-
pensate,” says ...
4Use each language’s special
strengths: Doornaert speaks several
languages h...
speechwriter Crosson notes that English
poses different problems for different
language groups...
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Presenting in your second language

Article from the TOASTMASTER about presenting a speech in your second language
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Education      Technology      Business      

Transcripts - Presenting in your second language

  • 1. 16 WHERE LEADERS ARE MADE LOOKING AT LANGUAGE BY DENISE GRAVELINE More and more, speakers around the world deliver talks in their second or even third language. And thanks to globalization, that second language is most likely English. United Kingdom- based speaker coach Max Atkinson, author of Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations, explains in his blog the role of the English language with a story about a lecture in Italy presented in English by Italian novelist and scholar Umberto Eco: He had just started his lecture when a group of locals demanded to know why he was speaking English in an Italian university. His response was impressively democratic and he asked the audience: “How many of you can only speak English?” I was one of a tiny minority of five or six native speakers of British and American English who raised their hands. In response to which Eco quickly rephrased his question: “For how many of you is English the only foreign language you can understand?” The vast majority of hands now went up, to which Eco turned to his compatriots and said: “As my lecture was advertised to be in English and the only language most people here understand is English, I shall give my lecture in English”—at which point, the rebellious Italian minority walked out. Using a second language for your speech or presentation, then, is all about the audience and what the majority of your listeners will understand. But that doesn’t mean your audience understands English fluently, nor does it mean that you do. It’s a big challenge for any speaker. Here are suggestions from speakers and speechwriters living and working in countries as varied as Belgium, Canada, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom to help you prepare for the challenge: Presenting inYour Second Language How not to get lost in translation.
  • 2. TOASTMASTER | APRIL 2014 17 VIDEO 1Keep it simple: “When people want to impress an audience, they overcom- pensate,” says Canadian speechwriter Amélie Crosson, who has written speeches in French and English for bankers, prime ministers and parliamentarians. “A lot of people think plain English is a sign of ignorance—they’ll say ‘utilize’ instead of ‘use.’ Relax. Keep it simple.” Speaker coach Florian Mueck, ACG, a member of Prestigious Speakers in Barcelona, Spain, agrees. “Having a small vocabulary isn’t a disadvantage,” says Mueck, a native speaker of German who also gives speeches in English and Spanish. “Less is more in public speaking, and often native speakers could [simplify their language] and say less.” 2Don’t get lost in translation: Use humor, metaphor and analogy sparingly. Mia Doornaert, a former speechwriter to the prime minister of Belgium, says, “Beware of jokes and humor and figures [of speech] that may not translate, or may resonate very differently in other languages and cultures.” U.K. speaker coach Atkinson warns that popular culture metaphors can cause con- fusion in a second language—something that is even true when the speaker is using American English versus British English. In his blog, he notes, “As a native speaker of British English, I often find myself bemoan- ing the fact that we have imported so many baseball metaphors from American English, even though it’s not a game that’s played or understood by most British adults. … Cricketing metaphors may be fine for speakers of English in Australasia, the Caribbean or the Indian subcontinent, but they’re not of much use in the United States, or indeed in the rest of Europe.” 3Think short: Crosson, the Canadian speechwriter, recommends “thinking short” in every way: short words and short, declarative sentences. She says, “You don’t want to have a long speech, because speakers in their second language tend to speak slower. You need to make your words count.” She notes if your audience includes a lot of people for whom English is a second language, they will have learned a simple sentence structure: subject—verb—object. Doornaert agrees: “If you don’t want to get lost in translation, keep sentences short.” At the United Nations she heard the story of a French simultaneous interpreter from Germany who, during a long German sentence, was heard to implore desperately: “Le verbe, le verbe s’il vous plaît!” (The verb, I beg of you, the verb!) Italian novelist and scholar Umberto Eco lectured in English at an Italian university because he discovered that more people in the audience understood English than Italian. Photo: Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock.com
  • 3. 18 WHERE LEADERS ARE MADE LOOKING AT LANGUAGE 4Use each language’s special strengths: Doornaert speaks several languages herself, and noted that as a speechwriter she wrote in three languages: in Dutch (her mother tongue) and French (two major official languages of Belgium) and in English for international speeches. “I really felt how every language has a personality, a genius of its own. I would switch a kind of ‘language button’ in my head. For instance, a French speech will have a different rhythm and flow than one in Dutch or English.” In an article in The American Scholar magazine, William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, says the definition of “good writing” depends on which country you are from, thanks to the innate differences in languages. Speakers can benefit from his advice to writers seeking to switch from another language to English: I once asked a student from Cairo, “What kind of language is Arabic?” I was trying to put myself into her mental process of switching from Arabic to English. She said, “It’s all adjectives.” Well, of course it’s not all adjectives, but I knew what she meant: it’s decorative, it’s ornate, it’s intentionally pleasing. Another Egyptian student, when I asked him about Arabic, said, “It’s all proverbs. We talk in proverbs. People say things like ‘What you are seeking is also seeking you.’” … Now I think it’s lovely that such a decorative language as Arabic exists. I wish I could walk around New York and hear people talking in proverbs. But all those adjectives and all that decoration would be the ruin of any journalist trying to write good English. No proverbs, please. If you are writing in your second language, Zinsser recommends aiming for clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity. 5Pay attention to sounds: Before you even consider pronunciation, basic sounds might trip you up. Canadian Practice is the best way to improve speaking in a nonnative language. Record yourself to hear how you sound and join a bilingual Toastmasters club. The Benefits of Being Bilingual You can easily make a case for the benefits of speaking two or more languages in a globalized world. And any speaker with a multilingual audience can guess that his or her own bilingual skills can help listeners better understand a message, but does being bilingual benefit the speaker once the presentation is over? Yudhijit Bhattacharjee notes in the New York Times that “being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain.” Researchers observe bilinguals in every age group, from babies to the elderly, and their studies suggest that when bilinguals encounter challenging tasks, they may be able to complete them faster or more efficiently than monolinguals. It also appears likely that adult learners of a second language can also reap the cognitive benefits. Bhattacharjee likens it to a cognitive workout for your brain’s executive function, which controls your ability to solve complex problems, stay focused on a task, pay attention, switch between tasks, and plan. And research also indicates that older bilinguals appear to be able to put off the start of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 4. TOASTMASTER | APRIL 2014 19 speechwriter Crosson notes that English poses different problems for different language groups when it comes to speaking certain sounds aloud. She points out how troublesome some sounds in English can be, including h and th for French speakers, j and y for Spanish speakers, w and v for Germanic or Nordic speakers, and l and r for Asian speakers. “If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, don’t use it,” says Crosson. Speakers also need to consider how a multilingual audience will hear what they’re saying. She suggests staying 7Use all the tools: To make sure the audience understands you while you speak in a second language, you’ll need more than just words and pronunciation. Experts recommend emphasizing gestures, movement, inflection, posture and other tools to get your point across. And while many speakers rely on text while delivering talks in their second language, it’s important that they use those tools to ensure a connection with the audience. “As soon as people talk to a piece of paper, they begin losing,” says José Iturri, a senior Spanish interpreter at the European Commission, who actually puts delegates and meeting chairs into the interpreters’ booth so they can get a feel for what they’re doing as speakers.  In the end, speaking well in your second language shares many of the qualities of speaking well in your first. “The rules are the same, but they matter more,” Crosson says. Atkinson says the good news is “the same rhetorical techniques are just as effective in getting messages across in any particular language—and have been for at least 2,000 years since the classical Greeks began teaching and writing about rhetoric.” Mueck says his best tip for fellow Toastmasters is simple: “Good public speaking doesn’t need perfection; good public speaking needs a message that reaches the brains and hearts of your audience. Speak from your heart and the language is secondary.” T DENISE GRAVELINE is a Washington, DC-based speaker coach who blogs about women and public speaking at eloquent woman.blogspot.com. She chaired the 2013 European Speechwriter Network Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Find the Toastmaster magazine app on the Apple App store, Google Play store and Amazon Appstore. positive and avoiding contractions such as don’t. English speakers can hear the t, but non-English speakers often miss hearing it. 6Practice: “A speech is a spoken art,” says Crosson. “If you’re speaking in a language that’s not your own, you have to hear your voice and record yourself to see how you sound. Find the words that trip you up.” The Japanese English Bilingual Toastmasters club (JETM) in Seoul, South Korea, among other bilingual clubs, gives members lots of practice speaking foreign languages. Club President Taeryeon Jung says their group helps members speak two languages—Japanese and English— without using their native Korean language. At meetings, members speak in Japanese for one hour and in English for another hour. Jung says JETM members “share their stories and experiences from different cultures and fun episodes from small mistakes.” The group has met jointly with the Tokyo Metropolitan Toastmasters club in Tokyo, Japan. 1-800-259-2592 As little as $100 for 25 books or 1,000 copies as little as $1 per book. Easy File Setup (most file types accepted) Fast Turnaround (in as few as 7 days!) Seven Binding Styles (including Hardback & Paperback) Bookstore Quality Multiple Sizes No Setup or Hidden Fees Complete Control of Your Work Live Customer Support You can be a published author! Turn your speeches into chapters and self-publish your book. Promote yourself as an expert in your field. WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY... “Writing is the basis of all wealth. But you don’t need a printer -- you need a partner. And that’s why I’ve done thirteen books with InstantPublisher. Not just because they’re fast, not just because they’re affordable, and not just because they’re beautiful -- but because my books look so amazing, that most of my readers assume I have a huge publisher. Which I don’t. It’s just me in my living room.” --Scott Ginsberg, The Nametag Guy. Visit InstantPublisher.com for instant prices quotes, publishing options, layout guides and more! “A speech is a spoken art. If you’re speaking in a language that’s not your own, you have to hear your voice and record yourself to see how you sound.” —speechwriter Amélie Crosson