• Stewart Knights

This Article Will Teach You a New Language

Some people speak French. Others speak German. Quite a few of us seem to speak English in some form or another. A select few immensely intelligent people can speak all of these languages and more! However, there are a few common languages between these languages previously mentioned. One is arithmetic, whereby it makes no different where you are as 1 + 1 always = 2, unless you find yourself trapped in a certain dystopian novel. This gives those people who can speak that language the unique experience to communicate with people in a way that would have been otherwise impossible if they had just relied on traditional ‘language’. However, this language is limited and really struggles to convey emotion - a key part of building relationships and transferring ideas.

There is, however, one language that can be spoken that can go beyond both languages mentioned - and there are no prizes for guessing which one I am referring to. The language of public speaking is a language that is spoken across the globe - regardless of arithmetic ability or English proficiency.

But, I Present in my Own Language?

This statement is entirely correct. There is no magical language that you can speak once you step up on-stage, leaving behind your mother tongue…or is there? The dictionary defines language as “the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community” which gives us three key components of language; the things you say, how you say them and who you’re saying them to.

Imagine that I go to Spain on my holiday to catch some rays and get away from the depressing state of the U.K. I may touchdown at El Prat airport in Barcelona, hail a taxi to go to my hotel and be met by a hearty “¡Hola!” at the desk. I could respond relatively confidently with my own “¡Hola!”, but the proceeding:

"¿Oh hablas Español? Eso es genial! ¿Quieres que te registre ahora y tome tus maletas o planeas ir por ahí primero?”

may leave me slightly lost for words.

We appear to have reached a language barrier, only resolvable by a quick google search for ‘google translate’ or an awkward flick through a tiny-but-thick phrase-book. It is clear that this situation applies to all the characteristics for what makes language, language! But let me propose another scenario.

Imagine that I go to London for an internship interview at a top technology firm. I may get the train from Manchester to London for a price greater than what it would cost me to fly to the Netherlands, hail a taxi to go to the HQ and be met by a hearty ‘Hello! Would you like to take a seat?’ from the receptionist. So far so good. I’m invited in and I start strongly with a ‘tell me about yourself’ question/statement, but it all goes down-hill from there. As a punishment for overplaying my own competence, my interviewer asks:

“Imagine there's a magnetic variance in the navigational wave compensator, and I'm detecting an antimatter build-up in the pneumatic pulse generator. How would you go about optimising the ventral parabolic control system?”

(a sentence created using the ‘technobabble generator found here).

At this point, I’ll show myself out.

See the difference? There isn’t one! No matter if you’re in exploring a foreign country, sat across the table at an interview in your home country or stood up on stage in front of a group of enthusiastic audience members - if you don’t follow the golden rules of language - you may as well be speaking a different language.

How Does One Externalise Such a Delicate Lexicon Strategy?

The title of this section is a perfect example. I’ve overcomplicated something that could’ve been said simply as “How do I do this?”. It is absolutely essential that what you’re saying could be understood by a five year old, give or take. There’s a fantastic series on YouTube which shows professionals going through levels of explanation for a certain concept that I would highly recommend - my favourite episode is linked here. and I would highly recommend giving it a watch as it illustrates this idea so well.

The main point is that you need to pay very close attention to the three aspects that make up language as we discussed before, these being: the things you say, how you say them and who you’re saying them to. Despite this, however, we are yet to touch upon how this relates so closely to presentation and how these factors can compensate and add to a performance, even if you don’t know the language. This is what we shall discuss in this final section.


(Rù xiāng suí sú - When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do)

If I were to travel to China and give a presentation, I would do well to follow this phrase. Rù xiāng suí sú more closely means “Enter Village, Follow Customs” and it is here where we begin to see how unimportant spoken language is in comparison to public speaking/presentation language. When we speak about language, as mentioned, we are thinking of three defining characteristics. When we speak about public speaking, however, we are speaking about a collection of verbal and non-verbal characteristics that make someone so captivating on-stage. These characteristics are usually a mixing pot of experiences derived from their culture that have shaped the things they say, how they say them and, sometimes, who they’re saying them to. Some of you may have noticed that this is the exact same explanation as that of language, well observed.

Culture cuts much deeper than language does and public speaking and presentation are a great way to show your appreciation for someone else’s culture along with showing off a bit of your own. In this respect, “When in Rome, Doing as the Romans Do” isn’t that bad of a strategy as it demonstrates deep understanding and humility - which is a language in a league of its own. To phrase this another way, language as an isolated ‘thing’ demonstrates that you have emotions and ideas - but can be blunted if the person you’re talking to doesn’t have these emotions or ideas. Mathematics and arithmetic demonstrate logic and understanding - but can be blunted if the person you’re ‘mathing’ with doesn’t have the understanding or logical capabilities that you do.

However, public speaking is the whole shabang. You have logic ‘the structure of the narrative’, and you have emotion and ideas ‘the content of the narrative’. But most importantly, you have understanding, however this is only when you figure out who your audience are and adapt to them - giving to them instead of taking away and leaving them confused. Understand the culture, the audience, the person you are talking to and it won’t matter what language you’re speaking, because you’ll be speaking a deeper and more emotive language that doesn’t need explaining because, quite honestly, it can’t be.

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