I had an interesting (or dare I say it – eloquent learning moment) just recently. I was teaching an English class and one student took me aside at the end of the class. He said ‘Teacher I was wondering if you could help me, I have a presentation I have to give tomorrow, and I need your feedback and help.” I replied ‘Certainly how can I help you?” …and this is what happened.
What he did first was sit me down at his desk and take out his notes for the presentation. He showed me his list of key points and asked me to quickly have a read of it and tell me if it is okay.
I took a quick glance at it and within the first sentence I noticed there was the word – ‘accolade’. I asked him ‘what is this word?’. He started spluttering and was finding it very difficult to pronounce – ‘acc – accol…acohola…’ and so it went on. Then I asked him, “Okay do you know what it means?’ He looked at me blankly and said ‘well, ….no’.
I then said ‘okay so why did you put it in your presentation if you didn’t know what it meant?’, and he replied ‘Well I copied it from the internet and it was about one of my points in the presentation.’
From there I asked him …’okay so what are you going to do now’. He replied, ‘well that’s why I’m here, I need your guidance on what to do generally.’ to which I replied, ‘Yeah but what are you going to do about this word ‘accolade’ if you don’t know what it means?’.
He coyly said ‘I will need to google it to find out the meaning and pronunciation’, to which I replied ‘ good, you are off to a great start, and if you don’t want to use that word you can use another word that means the same and maybe you will find it much easier to pronounce.’ He nodded in agreement.
I moved on to the next part of his presentation and very quickly stumbled upon the phrase ‘biodegradable and compostable packaging’. I again asked him, if he could say those words and tell me what they meant in relation to his presentation. He again responded with ‘well, no I’m not sure about what they mean exactly so that’s why I am here asking you for this help, to help me understand these things so I can give my presentation in a really professional way so that if anyone asks me anything about the meanings of these concepts I’d be able to respond correctly and confidently’.
I quickly told him that he had to understand these words or no one in his audience would. I moved onto another sentence on another page and found 3 more long technical terms that were not only hard to pronounce but also very complex to understand. He gave the same response of ‘yeah but teacher, this is why I want you to help me’.
I then stood up and went to the white board and got the marker and turned to him and said. ‘Okay, I’m now going to let you in on a really important secret. There is only actually one word you will need to know from here on in, that will determine whether you give a really great presentation or a failed presentation. There is only one word I’m going to write on the board, and once I’ve finished writing it, I want you to look it up in the dictionary. Then once you understand this word, you will do very well not just in English but in anything you do.
He quickly asked, what is it?
I asked him to go to his mobile and set up google on the screen. I then asked him to get the keyboard ready on his phone to type in the word. Then finally I said ‘are you ready for to find out the only word in the English dictionary you will ever need to know?’
“Yes!!’ he replied.
I went to the board and wrote these letters: W – O – R – K!
By the time he’d finished typing in the ‘K’ into the mobile, he pulled himself back and sighed.
I shrugged, put the marker down and patted him on the shoulder, and said… ‘All the best for tomorrows presentation!’.