Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Teaching" Speech

by AJ

This week Ill will start to "teach" speech to my advanced students. "Teach", however, is an inaccurate word. When I teach students speech, I do it in much the same way I would teach native speakers. That is, I dont focus on pronunciation drills (minimal pairs, etc..) or other sorts of rote activities.

In fact, I rarely focus on linguistic factors at all. Rather, I teach the class as a public speaking class. My focus is on affective factors and presentation skills. We talk about how to prepare a speech, how to deliver a speech, how to make verbal communication more clear and effective.

In terms of preparation, I teach them the Dale Carnegie approach-- which is to NEVER use a script. Students prepare for a speech by having lots of conversations about the topic. By doing this, they gradually grow comfortable talking about the topic. They figure out what ideas they want to communicate... which stories pack the biggest punch.. and where communication may break down. I usually have them talk about personal topics they know very well (thus no need for "research"). Eventually, the student gives a two minute speech standing in front of the class.

At this point, my emphasis is on natural conversational speech. No memorized lines. No scripts. No notes of any kind (for short speeches). When I give feedback, I always focus on strengths and usually focus on their delivery. Did they seem relaxed and natural (even though they are most likely nervous)? Did they talk to us in a conversational way? What were the strong points of the speech? What went well.. what was clear... what was powerful... what held our attention?

The interesting thing is that by doing speeches in front of the class, most students actually improve their normal conversation. Why? Im not sure. But I think it has to do with confidence. Public speaking is scary as hell, even for native speakers. Once they realize they can deliver a strong speech in English.. standing in front of a group of people.. their confidence grows. Suddenly a normal conversation doesnt seem so intimidating after all.

And so this week, we (well, they :) will start giving speeches!

San Francisco, CA