I am here in Britain for the summer school experience in Coventry and I really got impressed to see that some topics are universal. I have known through my linguistics courses in France that the body language could be, in some way, a national way to express ourselves. But sometimes some gesture will not convey the same message according to the country from which you are coming from. Just to give you an example, I met a girl from Czech Republic and we had this little talk about how to wish for luck. In France we cross the fingers and in her country they just do a fist and shake it.

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I think that body language is a skill that everyone can improve. It will help them for oral presentation! I had, the last two years, in my university a course untitled “techniques of communication” and I noticed how stronger a message will be when we are using our body. For the final exam, I had to do a presentation of more or less twenty minutes and we trained for months to gain confidence. We worked on the posture and I found out that most of the time when people get nervous their body is getting pulled forward. I have never had problems of pronunciation in French but some of my friends did so the teacher made us practicing with tongue twisters, we had a great laugh but actually it is a good training for oral presentations. We were not allowed to have visual aids so we needed to be perfect at delivering a speech, not to eat our words, not to hold hands, not to touch our hair, etc. Tips for girls, you should tie your hair back, it is effective and the audience will, at the same time, be able to see your face clearly.

Tips for girls, you should tie your hair back, it is effective and the audience will, at the same time, be able to see your face clearly.

As my phonetics teacher used to say, practice makes perfect, it might not come as easily for you but it is probably a question of time and training. Knowing your topic by heart will make you more confident for the “D-Day”. I have noticed that in France, especially in language studies, students are afraid to make mistakes (or maybe they are afraid of the teacher, it could be one of the reasons) so they wrote every single word of their presentation on a paper and in the end, the D-Day looked more like a “reading presentation’ than an oral one. Most of the time, teachers in France allow notes to their students, but lazy as we are, we are using tricks to transform notes into the whole text. Maybe you will be more confident if you have it, but the more you read the less you catch the audience’s attention, the more you read the less the mark will be.

the more you read the less you catch the audience’s attention, the more you read the less the mark will be.

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In conclusion, oral presentations are not easy to prepare and to deliver, for some it might be the easiest thing to do in the world because some people are more fit to speak well in public. But the secret I think, is that these persons have just more practice than you. Knowledge and learning are not just accessible in books but also in the everyday life. Oral skills can be improved during small talk, especially when it is not in your native language! Since I am in the United Kingdom, my English became more natural and fluent, just by speaking with foreigners over a coffee or a pizza, and I will probably, next September, be more confident in class thanks to this experience……..which is a practice! So next time you are about to deliver a speech, take a deep breath, speak slowly, and you will surely have a good mark for your final oral presentation!

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Céline Gros, University of Artois, France.
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