Mykolas Romeris University
Public speaking is the one skill no successful person can afford to be without. Anonymous.
Speaking in public always aims at communication and presupposes a different level of formality depending on the settings and the audience. Learning to speak in a foreign language differs from learning other subjects due to its social nature. Language is part of person’s identity, and speaking is used to convey this identity to other people. Since oral production is open to audience scrutiny, lack of confidence and fear of looking foolish cause speakers’ anxiety. People are also concerned about such things as grammar, lexis, and pronunciation.
There is a wealth of publications on the issues of making presentations and how to prepare a presentable talk and deliver it. However, teaching and learning to make well-organized presentations in front of an audience takes a lot of practice - learners need some systematic training in preparing and performing. The principal purpose of training is to provide the most effective learning experience for the student.
This paper addresses the research into learners’ attitudes to speaking in public on different themes and learners’ perceptions of experienced gains and lacks. Each learner encounters various difficulties in making presentations, and these difficulties need to be identified and dealt with. Evaluation of public speaking allows to determine strengths and weaknesses and work out the methodology of teaching effective presentations. The outcome of research is drawing general outline of good practice in helping learners master public speaking.
BACKGROUND TO RESEARCH
Public speaking is a productive skill aiming at communication. For communication in a foreign language to be successful, a speaker needs to be familiar with linguistic and cultural backgrounds, that are shared by native speakers, and has to obey certain rules and conventions, that are not written down anywhere, nor are easy to define (Harmer, 2001:246). Socio-cultural rules and turn-taking belong to spoken genres which public speaking is part of. Another feature of public speaking is a different level of formality that is sometimes described as ‘distance’ and ‘closeness’, i.e. language production is more ‘writing-like’ or ‘speaking-like’ (C. Tribble, 1997:21).
Speaking involves two types of skills – basic, lower level motor-perceptive skills of producing right sounds and using accurate grammatical structures, and communicative strategies such as what and how to get the meaning across (Bygate, 1987:5).
Learning to speak in a foreign language differs from learning other subjects basically due to its social nature. Language has always been part of person’s identity, and speaking is used to convey this identity to other people. ‘Exposing language imperfections in front of others, person’s self-image becomes more vulnerable, and it leads to anxiety’ (Arnold, 2003:2).
The main reasons for anxiety in public speaking appear to be lack of confidence, unfamiliar situation, sense of isolation, self-consciousness, fear of looking foolish, fear of the consequences, i.e. be judged by others (http://lorien.ncl.ac.uk?ming/dept/tips/present/).
Since oral production is open to audience scrutiny, speakers are concerned with various difficulties such as grammar, lexis, and pronunciation. Referring to pronunciation problems of language learners J. Morley (1994:67) points out that ‘it is well documented that speakers with poor intelligibility have long-range difficulties in developing into confident and effective oral communicators; some never do’.
It is claimed that the average person speaks over 34,000 words each day (http://www.tufts.edu). ’And yet, when polled, the number one fear of American people is that of public speaking. The fear of speaking to a group is ranked above fear of dogs, fear...