Speaking in English

Speaking in English

The German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898), once said that the most significant aspect of the 20th century would be the fact that in North America, people speak English. When it comes to speaking in English, Bismarck was prescient.

Over the past 100 years or so, English has become the preeminent language in diplomacy, business, entertainment and other fields. With the explosion of the Internet, the significance of English has been amplified even further. And so, speaking in English has become increasingly important.

Languages, however, can rise and fall in importance like the sun. (When was the last time you met anyone who speaks Latin?) English might be “shining” now, but if history is any guide, another language will surpass it in the future. Still, as long as English remains the world’s lingua franca, it behooves us, as public speakers, to improve our command of the language. This challenge can be especially daunting for those whose mother tongue is not English.

For many readers of this blog, English is not their first language. I have tremendous respect for non-native speakers who give presentations in English. I know what it is like to speak publicly in another language. Many people do so, but most of them will acknowledge that they are never as comfortable as when they are speaking their mother tongue.

In the future, I write more about English and on how non-native speakers can improve their skills. As well, I will be offering tips for native speakers when speaking English to foreign audiences.

But, before leaving, here is a short but brilliant clip about the importance of English that I am sure old Bismarck himself would have enjoyed.

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  1. Now is as good time as any to set some achievable goal for ourselves and those around us to speak, write and expect better English. Find a list of the 100 most misspelled words or the dozen most common grammar errors, and challenge yourself and others with them. English will stay a great language only if we work at it.
    Or should we be grateful when people self-identify their ignorance, by English misuse, so we may be wary of them? That would be sad.

  2. Most native English speakers in the USA read & speak on an 8th grade level (age 13 in our public school system). We can all benefit from focused work on grammar. Thank you, Douglas, for very practical ideas I’m going to use the next time I’m in the Grammarian role.
    And thank you, John, for addressing this. I’m going to read the future posts on this topic with great interest for self-improvement.
    Here’s hoping this comment has no egregious errors.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Bernadette. It is a shame that more native English speakers don’t take the time to polish their command of the language (written as well as spoken). When handled carefully, English can be a captivating language.
      I have some other posts on grammar, if you are interested. Go to “Search by Category” on the right side of the blog and you will find the link.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International