Choosing a Speech Topic With Language Barriers

by Kim Vu
(Richland WA, Benton County)

Q.English is mine second languag, I have to do my persuasive speech and I am not sure which topic is good. Please help me thanks.

A. Well, we can't choose your topic for you, but you do bring up an interesting question. How do language barriers effect public speaking? How do you overcome those barriers? What do you take into account when you choose your speech topics?

The purpose of public speaking is communication, and, ultimately, persuasion. To accomplish these goals, one must get into the mind of the audience. A speech must work on an audience member at many levels - logically, emotionally, and if possible even physically (many good speeches get audience members involved, and many good speakers try to get people moving). All of these require effective, and understandable, communication.

What if, because of language or other barriers, you can't communicate perfectly on all levels? We have some good news for you - nobody communicates perfectly! We all have barriers to overcome. The key, then, is knowing what to emphasize. What topics and arenas we can choose and speak in to accentuate our strengths and minimize our differences.

Kim, you're worried because English isn't your first language. I want you to know that that doesn't matter. If you are willing to think about your topics, then put in effort to prepare them, you don't have to worry.

Choose a topic that is meaningful to you. Choose a topic that the audience can connect with you one. You're coming from a unique situation, and so have some unique perspectives. You notice things about this language, and this country, that I have never noticed before because I grew up here, I'm used to it, so my eyes are closed. But your eyes are open. Choose something that you've noticed and experienced, something that is close to your heart. Perhaps you can persuade people to learn more about different people and cultures. Your topic could be as simple as persuading someone to try ethnic food from your country. Tie in your experience. Your language difficulty will actually lend you credibility.

This way, your language won't be your weakness, but your strength.

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