We finished our Ted talk last week… personally, I was not very satisfied with our performance. If I were to peer evaluate our presentation, I would probably highlight the point “Not enough practice, please rehearse more.”
Then this leaves me in wonder – we started early, we worked hard, we had frequent group meetings, we finished on time, and everyone was given almost a week to practice. Why didn’t the presentation go well as expected?
Let’s break this down by layers and debug the root cause in order to efficiently solve it:
Layer one: nervousness
Typically, when a team doesn’t perform well, it is most likely because members are nervous to the point they couldn’t speak or they forget what they are going to say. “It was a lot of pressure. We went up and our brains just went blank.” – the most innocent yet true explanation. Practice makes perfect. However, as Math students, we didn’t have much chance to do presentations in front of a huge crowd of people. Obviously, we didn’t have much experience and were not comfortable delivering speeches.
Layer two: low confidence in writing
Another reason for being nervous other than lack of experience is the lack of confidence in writing. When presenting, everyone fears that the arguments were off topic, fears that the points weren’t strong enough to support the thesis, fears that there might be embarrassing grammar errors. All these concerns stack up and finally take revenge by making presenters blank out during the presentation – we care too much about messing up that we are not focusing on what we are supposed to focus on and then mess up.
Then you are going to ask: if you forget what you were about to say, can’t you make something up and keep talking? So that at least, you can avoid the awkward silence. Well, here comes the last layer.
Layer three: Native language
Many can’t come up with anything because they don’t know what to say to ease the awkwardness. Moreover, there could be a chance that they make the situation even worse. The reason for this is because they are not experts at manipulating the English language in such way that it would solve the problem.
“Can’t you move on to the next part and come back once you remember it?” Haha… might not be as easy as thought. Many Asian students tend to forget everything. Why? Because of the different cultures between North American countries and Asian countries.
In Asia, starting from a young age, kids were told to memorize paragraphs. “Once you memorize enough, you will turn others’ work into your own language. Thus you can develop your style and are able to write masterpieces.” is the answer students got when they questioned about this learning style. So Asian students started to memorize instead of trying to make sense of a paragraph. The drawback is pretty significant: once forget about one part, the entire flow stopped and the rest would also be forgotten.
Moreover, the learning style doesn’t really apply to purely arguments-supported persuasive essays or reports. It’s more suitable for emotional or poetic pieces. When comes to fact-based argumentative presentations, Asian students are self-aware of their problems in writing, which would make them nervous on the stage when presenting. When they are nervous, they wouldn’t be able to recall what they memorized and then mess up. The simple butterfly effect.
So now we can conclude that when one fails to acquire the language, it impacts their writing and oral language skills. Just like my English professor Sara said, one can’t speak well without writing well. So, the first step of improving oral communication skill is to improve English, which is the reason I choose this course. ( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀)
(Language Barriers to Communication talks about how language affects communication, read more if you want to learn about how to overcome communication barriers.)