“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent,” said Dionysius of Halicarnassus. While realizing the essence of this sagacious saying, we can readily conclude that good English speaker is rarer than hens’ teeth in these regions of the world where there is an outlandish, preternatural and almost spurious cultural supposition that having a kingly command of the English language is rather an odious pageantry of colonial aggrandizement.
Against such disparaging social milieu, if one wants to become a great speaker with native like pronunciation and natural fluency, the first step one must take is to stop worrying about those egregious overtures while focusing on acquiring the skill sets that one can master through certain degree of labor and diligence. However, at first one has to know what it is that differentiates the good speakers from thousand other ordinary ones.
Here are some basic parameters which can be regarded as determining factors in scaling the ability of a great speaker.
1. A great speaker does not talk, he/she literally sings, He/she sings words to one’s ear and one is bemused as if s/he heard a beautiful melody coming from a wanderer’s flute.
2. His/her way of putting words together is masterful. He/she does not speak like a parrot trilling some crammed tunes. He/she speaks with insouciant authority as if he/she is playing difficult part of an opera in front of cynical crowd with unflappable display of flamboyant skills.
3. A good speaker has the poise and grace of a poet, lyricist. It does not mean that a good speaker will unleash fecund verse at every time he/she utters word/words from his/her mouth. But, he/she talks with wit, calculated wisdom, terse vocabulary and he/she is like a whisperer or a hypnotizer which is why one is going to be enamored with his/her words.
4. He/she is well read and well conversant with worldly affairs. He/ she will show his/her superior skill in a manner that a tailor demonstrates his skill of designing cloth. He/ she is not going to unravel entire repertoire his/her skill sets but the listener will soon end up being an ardent admirer of his/her manipulative power without getting to know how he/she did it.
5. A good speaker is an alpha male (read it as a gender neutral); vivid, unique, potent and like the finest breed of horse, they are meant to win the listener a swashbuckling race in a slippery bet. The character of a good speaker is of a gigantically cool persona to lighten up the fire from burned charcoal. The results are complete deliverance from rigidity, immobility, humorlessness and imbecility.
A great speaker often disguises the secret trajectory of his/her sublime skill with the cultivation of following gifts; the relevance of these gifts has always been proved irrefutably strong throughout the centuries:
Style: A great speech must be masterfully constructed. The best orators are masters of both the written and spoken word, and use words to create texts that are beautiful to both hear and read.
Substance: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presented, and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy theme; it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideals.
Impact: Great oratory always seeks to persuade the audience of some fact or idea. The very best speeches change hearts and minds and seem as revelatory several decades or centuries removed as when they were first given.
All in all, the traditional benchmark we set to become a good speaker is a terribly flawed and disturbingly dull one. We neither decide our purpose nor our fate in the process of learning the language. Hence, we become a toy expected to utter some familiar tricks which is installed by our maker. Alas, that makes us facile speaker who are drawn into the phantasm of self-contentment through cacophonous and hyper repetitive imitation of the histrionic outburst of our piteous self. And, with murky and erratic pronunciation, people in these regions crown themselves as English Gurus aka aficionados while severing the tie with the main stream English unanimously spoken and academically pursued by people all over the world.
Therefore, time has come for us to decide whether we want to be a toy with some installed tricks or a master tailor by essaying our entire repertoire through artfully disguising our skill. Nonetheless, never should we ever forget to shut our eyes to the ginormous accusation of certain quarters slamming this learning process as a colonial pilgrimage of invoking the apparitions left by the British. On the contrary, great English author, D. H. Lawrence aptly put what the role of a speaker should be; I quote, “be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” So, let us talk when we are stirred by genuine passion, and let us articulate it hot.
Hasan Maruf teaches English in DPS STS School, Dhaka. What influences him to lift the pen is not only for his adoration for creative writing, but as a form of therapy to seek spiritual salvation.