Oral Presentation Skills for non-Native Speakers


Giving oral presentations in a language that is not one's native can be a special challenge. Here are some suggestions for improving one's skills:

It should be remembered that in English the most important words (often nouns and verbs) receive the most stress in a sentence, and less important words such as articles (a, the), prepositions (of, in, etc.), and pronouns (she, they, it, etc.) should not be stressed unless one needs to give them special emphasis. Putting equal stress on all words can make one's speech difficult to understand.


Words and phrases that tell the listeners what's coming – are very important in oral presentations. So are phrases that connect parts of the speech to earlier parts, such as «As I have previously mentioned...» Therefore, the written text must be checked to see where one might add words or phrases that link parts of the talk (for example, «on the other hand» to signal a contrasting point, «for instance» to introduce an example, «in summary» to signal your conclusion). Pausing after the transitions used for emphasis is essential.

Speakers of some languages tend to speak more softly than English speakers. Also, some individuals naturally have soft voices. If someone appears to have trouble understanding a speaker in English, it may not be because the speaker is mispronouncing words, misusing vocabulary, or using incorrect grammar, but rather because one is speaking so softly that the person cannot hear.

Declamatory (artistic) style

Oral interpretation is one of the oldest of human social activities. Before writing, people communicated primarily by word-of-mouth. Because there were no newspapers, magazines, or books, ideas were handed down orally from one generation to the next. In this way, literature was preserved in memory rather than on paper. Some of the greatest literature survived for hundreds of years in oral form before it was finally written down.

There will probably be many times when one will be able to interpret some type of literature orally. In school one may be called upon to read part of a story or to recite a poem. At home or while baby-sitting, one may read to younger children. Many professions also call for this ability. Teachers, lawyers, religious leaders, librarians, and broadcasters are only a few of the people whose jobs demand that they read aloud skilfully.

For the speaker, there is often a sense of personal pride associated with reading orally. Aside from the enjoyment of reading something well, it makes people feel good to share their experiences of literature with others.

From the point of view of the listener, oral interpretation is primarily a source of entertainment. When literature is performed, it seems to come alive for the audience. Literature says something of lasting value and says it well. The literature most commonly used for oral interpretation falls into two very broad categories: prose and poetry.

Compared to poetry, prose is closer to the language of everyday use. When an author writes in prose, he or she generally tries to duplicate the way someone would speak aloud. Although it was not a popular literary form until the sixteenth century, prose is now by far the most common form of literature. Every time one reads a book or a magazine article one is reading prose. Prose is used by authors to tell or describe something. The two types of prose are fiction or non-fiction.

Fiction is material created in the imagination

Non-fiction, on the other hand, is based entirely on truth as the author understands it, on real people, and on actual events. Nonfiction is written to inform the reader and is usually the result of an author's research. A biography, for example, is a work of non-fiction about someone's life.

Poetry, the oldest of the literary arts, can trace its roots directly to the beginnings of the oral tradition. Most of the oldest literature in existence today, which includes such works as Beowulf, The Odyssey, The Iliad, is poetry. The bards were really the first poets. Each of their stories had a specific rhythm and rhyme. The rhythm helped them to remember the number of syllables in a line; the rhyme gave them clues as to the actual words. The result was a kind of chanted story-poem.

Poetry can be described as communication of thought and feeling through the careful arrangement of words, for their broadcasters are only a few of the people whose jobs demand that they read aloud skilfully.

Conversational (familiar) style

Listening to an informal conversation on tape is sometimes difficult because of some features. But if you are taking part in the conversation or watching it, these features do not cause so much difficulty because you can see the expression on people's faces and their gestures or other movements.

Students who have studied English for several years in their own countries may still find it difficult to understand people in Britain when they first arrive. There could be several reasons for this: people may speak much faster than students are used to, they may use a lot of colloquial and idiomatic language, or they may have a regional accent or dialect and use non-standard forms in their speech. Students will get used to all of these things in time; although a very strong accent or special regional dialect may still give problems. One should not worry too much about this; sometimes even British people from different parts of the country cannot understand each other very well.

With regard to recognizing gender differences in conversations between close friends or intimate partners, women and men respond differently to discussions of personal problems, according to their perception of what is most helpful or supportive. Women are claimed to discuss their problems more than men do and, wile men tend to use advice more than women do, women purportedly express (and expect to receive) sympathy more than men do.

That is, women prefer to respond to someone's troubles by giving comfort, describing similar personal situations and offering matching troubles. Women's voice range is, as a rule, wider than men’s one and changes basically within high and low pitch levels. This fact is conditioned by the unequal use of their voices in order to correspond to the feminine and masculine stereotypes which have been set in society.

In England, in particular, some women consider the manner to use high voice pitch to be an indication of higher social status. The speech of English and American women is characterized by remarkable intonation expressiveness.