Elgazette Logo newtrans  The magazine for English language teaching and English medium education

Out of the box: The power of public speaking


A few years ago, at the English language centre I was in charge of, our students would work on presentations quite frequently. But very often we felt those presentations didn’t benefit the students as much as we thought they would.

It seemed our students often treated those presentations as yet another classroom activity that needed to be completed before the lesson was over.

They didn’t give those presentations enough focus, didn’t push themselves hard enough to really bring their language proficiency to another level. The classroom environment was too safe.

And that’s how the English Talks event started in 2015 – as a motivator, the extra push learners of languages need in order to excel. I thought, ‘Why not take English learning outside of the classroom? Why not give learners a task that would put them in a position that would really make them do their best?’

“They didn’t push themselves hard enough to really bring their language proficiency to another level. The classroom environment was too safe ”
And when do people do their best? Well, usually when they are being watched, don’t they? And, it appears, only when they are aware that someone is watching them.

Thus, I thought, ‘Why not provide learners with a chance to give a talk in front of a live audience that they don’t know? A talk about their own interests and experiences. After all, we all love talking about ourselves, don’t we? And why not film it all so the talks could be watched online by anyone who wishes to do so?’

That’s how it all started, in Brazil, but the event has since developed into something quite different. Most of English Talks speakers are no longer, at least formally, English language learners. They all, however, do have English as their second or additional language. They also all use it – or aim to use it – in order for their ideas to reach a wider audience.

The event takes place in a different country every year, and for 2017 we’ve chosen Dublin (30th September, Spencer Hotel). There will be ten speakers from ten different countries (five continents), with professional backgrounds ranging from psychology to journalism, and digital forensics. The speaker list includes the Dublin-based Lukas Koper who will talk about his struggle with dyslexia and the multi-lingual Nesrine Makhfi who will talk about how reading affects the brain.

Daniel Zuchowski is an English language consultant and trainer, teacher trainer, editor and founder/organiser of English Talks. His second book, Chips and Sausage, will be published this autumn. @DanielZuchowsky