Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Official Style in Public Speaking

After I took communication class with a wonderful time last semester, I’m kind like doing the public speech, because I feel that persuading someone and changing their thoughts by the words you say is an amazing thing, and I want to be a public speaker in the future if I have chance. Nowadays public speaking is becoming more and more popular. It can be seen not only in school but also in all kinds of business presentations and meetings or TV shows, sometimes even in the community you are living in. Although we’re pretty familiar with public speaking, it’s still hard for us to imagine how public speech works as the most important medium of communication to spread important information without some auxiliary tools like PowerPoint and posters, especially during a period like World War II, for example.
When I read some speech materials from the 1940s or other periods around that time, I could easily find some that compared to today’s speech. However, most speeches at that time were written in a more formal and sophisticated way, because during that time, militarists and politicians often gave speeches to a large number of audiences about the war and what was happening in foreign countries. Winston Churchill, for example, is one of the famous orators of that time. His speech, Their Finest Hour, was given after the Nazis captured France, and Nazis were trying to find their way to finish off the U.K. In order to grab the attention of a mass audience, Churchill had to mix the official style and plain style in his speech. But, if he used too simple of words in his speech, his credibility and professionalism would be without a doubt lost when the speech went on. But with the audience change with the time, we need reanalysis the speech.The strategies of the official style Churchill used included: euphemism, slow sentence openings, noun style, and jargon, which showed his professionalism very well. However, those strategies he used may also have made him sound ostentatious and hard to understand by some people who didn’t have higher education, and it may have made some people uninterested in listening to what he actually said. 
 It’s very obvious that Churchill wanted to tell the public about what happened in France at the beginning of his speech. He tried to explain the reason why their military didn’t help their allies, but he used a slower opening when he informed his audience about what occurred in France. He began his speech by stating, “I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern armies from Belgium at a moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse.” The timeframe he used, “the other day,” is a little bit inappropriate. It seems like all audiences wouldn’t know which day he meant, and if someone already knew what had happened in France on that day, they would lose their interest in what he was saying before he went to the main point of the speech. On one hand, Churchill was trying to be open with the public, as any politician should be, but his slow opening description about the battle may have made his main point become unclear. Churchill shows what he actually wants to say in an extensive way, and it seems like he might have overelaborated on the subject selection. So, personally, I think that this kind of official style strategy has its value in areas like literature research, but it couldn’t help Churchill to address the British universal population here.
            However, the targeted audience of this speech was the House of Commons, not the whole of Britain. For this reason, he could write his speech in a more political way rather than a plain way.
            Another strategy that Churchill used in his speech is euphemism. After his introduction, Churchill explained that he wasn't saying those things for “recrimination”, which isn't a simple word that can be seen in our daily life. So I think that if he was trying to build a closer connection with his audience, he should say it in a plainer and simpler way, like “I don’t want to blame anyone for this battle in France.” Maybe in a simpler kind of phrase, it makes more sense than that complicated word, although he was trying to sound more formal and professional as politicians should. Personally, I think if he had done it in this way, his speech may have worked better among political and official leaders. Churchill was considered to be a man who raised the art of speaking to the level of high literature, because he liked to wait to revise his language style until the last minutes before he gave his speech. Because he was a new elected official, he was trying to not only leave a deep impression on the House, but also inspire them come together to solve the difficulties of such a crucial time. Here is another example of this kind of strategy he used in his speech: “I should not think it would be very advantageous for the House to prolong this debate this afternoon under conditions of public stress.” I think this sentence could be spoken in a plainer and simpler way. For me, I think things like “I don’t think the House should continue the debate, because we are facing a huge public stress.” makes more sense to me, and it still explains the main points clearly. Although it seems to have lost some professionalism, the audience would understand what Churchill actually wanted to express, and it would help his statements be more direct.  Besides, for the British citizens and other countries’ citizens, adding some plain style would be more beneficial.

As both an orator and a politician, Churchill became famous for his excellent political speeches like this one in the following years. Overall, Winston Churchill did a really good job in showing all the people in England that he noticed the dangerous situation, and he could speak objectively about it. There are many sentences and phrases that could be changed into plainer and simpler language to appeal to more audiences. But, we still need consider the situation that he encountered during that time. It is good material to read on the internet today, but I don’t think most people in the past would like listening this kind of speech though the radio or in a public place, because when I listen to a speech like this, it’s so hard for me to understand the military and political terminology. For this reason, it was hard for speeches like this to cheer the British people up for the coming battles at that time, but in some cases, the official style part has some literature research value. After analyzing one of Churchill’s speeches, I can see the official style can be used frequently to grab the main points and to persuade a large audience to believe a specific factor and cause. However, if the speaker doesn’t use the official style in an appropriate and skillful way, the audience may misunderstand the message given by the speaker, and even begin to doubt the credibility of speaker. But Churchill did a good job in use the official style. Positive responses can be found in many part. Richard Alleyne , a Science Correspondent, said that his speech “full of passion and Shakespearesque language, his appeal for fortitude and courage was credited with re-galvanizing the country in its darkest hour.” Same thing were mentioned by NPR. They think Churchill’s speech “was widely considered one of the greatest political speeches ever, and rallied a war-weary Britain at a time when it appeared to be losing World War II.” This commons all show that Churchill had a nice shot in using the official style strategy. Some might say that Churchill was just trying to get parliament to approve of his actions in not helping France, but I believe that if this was his only motive, he would have just used the official style and not integrated the plain speech in order to sound more professional. However, some may think that the main reason why Churchill’s speeches were so successful is the rhetoric he used, and they think that Churchill just use great logic to persuade the audience to believe what he states in spite of some political factors, which still needs to be known and considered.
                                                                                                                                    Fangfang L

1 comment:

  1. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.