A language without logic

Club Contest Speech on 23rd Feb 2018, awarded first prize.

Title : A language without logic

Time : 5 – 7 Minutes

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I visited California for the first time in the year 2003. My colleague picked me from the airport. While we were driving, I saw a city name on the board and I read it aloud “San Jose”. He burst into laughter and said, hey it’s “San Hose”.

I asked him back, then why do we say June & July instead of Hune and Huly?  He was speechless, he couldn’t answer my question.

If you are a native English speaker, you are fortunate. When you speak, you have no fear of being judged by other people. Do you know how it feels to pronounce words in another language and being judged? Let’s try a small experiment here. Listen and repeat after me. BHAVA, Bhava means feeling in Sanskrit language. Say it louder. Not the BA from BA BA Black sheep. Bhava originates from the pit of your stomach. Touch your navel, let me underline your navel! When you pronounce BHA you should feel the puff of air starting from your stomach and going out of your mouth.

Was it difficult? Yes, it is. I empathize with you. What if you had to touch your navel or some other part of your body for every word you speak? Right from my childhood I was puzzled by the weirdness of English language. PUT is pronounced as put and BUT as but. What’s the logic behind this?

The letter G retains its sound in GINGER and changes in SINGER & FINGER.

Why do we need 5 letters to spell the word QUEUE? A language without logic.

In most languages we read words as they are written. However, this logic doesn’t work in English language. We write a word in one way and pronounce it in a totally different way. That’s the enigma of English.

Lettuce : Lettuce, then why not write LETIS?

PIZZA: PitZa, where did the sound T come from? Back in India my uncle calls it PIJJA.

A friend of mine from Hungary struggles with the word Chicago, he calls it CHICAGO? I don’t blame him.

What about this French word, Rendezvous: RonDevU.

English language has freely imported words from many languages such as Latin, Greek, French & Italian. In many cases, retaining the actual pronunciation & spelling from the original language. English vocabulary is a collection of words from several disparate languages.

This means there is no logic in adding new words. Do you know the meaning of Triskaidekaphobia?

It’s a group of 4 Greek words. Tris, Kai , Deca & Phobia. It’s a fancy word for ‘Fear of number 13’. Really?

What’s so special about number 13? Why not have similar words for the fear of 14,15, 16 & so on?

There are about 1 million words in English vocabulary and we keep adding more every year. I wonder why?

Webster’s dictionary recently added a new word to their list, ‘FROYO’, can anyone guess the meaning of this word? FROZEN YOGURT. FROYO…

We should write a letter to Webster’s team to add another word called TOMA, a short word for Toastmasters.

I never paid attention to the nuances of pronunciation until I heard a memorable speech in India. The speech was about leadership skills. The speaker used the word quantum jump many times in his speech.   Due to his first language influence, in quantum he replaced the sound KWA with KA and the sound T with D. Every time he said quantum jump in his own style, the audience jumped up high on their seats and laughed. He was totally puzzled and his speech was totaled.

A motivational speech turned into a hilarious speech. What a disaster?

One pronunciation blunder, took away the thunder from his speech. That episode brought a quantum change my perspective. I started paying careful attention to my pronunciation.

Instead of focusing on the logic, I started focusing on the root of each word I used in my speeches. When I befriended the roots, I began to enjoy the fruits.

 

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One more brick in the wall

brick

 

Club Contest Speech on 10th Feb 2017, awarded first runner up .

Title : One more brick in the wall

Time : 5 – 7 Minutes

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Sometimes we don’t know what we do, even worse; we don’t know why we do what we do! Good evening Toastmasters, guests & contest judges.

Two weeks ago I raised my hand to participate in this speech contest. I don’t know why I did that.

What made me sign up for this contest? What are my chances against these 4 speakers with 5 stars? Michael is a gifted narrator & an animated speaker. Bob can rob your attention with his high-quality words. Russ can impress you with his grace & style. Gladwin can win your confidence just by his stage presence. What’s my strength? Well, do I have any is a better question?

All these questions & arguments drove me crazy as I drove back home from the previous club meeting. By the time I reached home, I had made up my mind. I was determined to quit. I started to mentally draft my apology email to Wayne. I thought of skipping the club meeting today by citing my busy schedule as an excuse. Then I realized, this is my second meeting as a club member. Indians have this peculiar belief about missing the second step of a new journey.  We don’t miss the second day of a new school, second day of new job and second meeting of a new club. I had no choice but to speak!

Once I decided to stay in the contest, now the second challenge gripped my mind. What topic should I choose? What should be my focus? Should I inspire the audience? Or Entertain them or persuade them to adopt my viewpoints. I had umpteen vague ideas in my head, but not a concrete topic in my hand. I was pulling my hairs out despite being scared of losing them. A week went by, I still didn’t have a topic. On Friday night last week, I couldn’t sleep as these thoughts were buzzing in my head.

I sat on a chair, closed my eyes. I took a few deep & deliberate breaths. The thought ripples slowly faded and my mind became placid.

If my goal is to become a better communicator, then why am I resisting this speech? Why am I in stress? Where is my focus? Questions are the answer, I got my answer. My focus was the prize of contest. The prize of winning, the prize of admiration and the prize of appreciation.

Shifting focus on the prize derailed me and sprouted self-doubt in my mind. We all have experienced this in situations such as job interviews, sales presentations, writing exams or IQ tests. Poor performance is the price we pay, when we are preoccupied with the prize.

The moment I focused on my purpose, this speech became just another step in the process of becoming a better speaker. In other words, this speech is one more brick in the wall, not the wall by itself! This analogy was liberating; writing this speech became fun as I had no prize to win.

To achieve our purpose, we need to submit to the process ignoring this shiny object called prize. Process is of paramount importance in every aspect of our lives; whether it is bearing a child, nurturing a relationship, improving health or accumulating wealth. Process is progress!

Becoming an effective speaker too is a process, we just need to show up, stand up & speak up! And that’s exactly what I am doing today. I am glad I did not quit.

Whether you are an amateur or a matured speaker, the prize of appreciation will distract you. It will prevent you from making mistakes, experimenting & learning by doing.

You can see this in action, when you hesitate to take a meeting role or procrastinate delivering a speech or feel reluctant to participate in a speech contest. When that happens, just remember your purpose is more precious than the prize.

Every time we show up, stand up and speak up; we are placing one more brick in the wall and we are one step closer to building the wall.

Same reasons, a new season!

icebreaker

After 7 years of hibernation, I joined a Toastmasters club in Belmont ,California.  I delived my ice-breaker speech recently. Below is the speech script.

Objective : Introduce yourself to the audience

Time : 4 – 6 Minutes

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I don’t know who said that, all I know is that’s not true in the world of Toastmasters. I delivered my first ice breaker speech in 2003. This is my second chance to make a first impression in my second home club. When I look back and review my life situation between these two ice breaker speeches, I find some similarities & some differences.

Let’s look at similarities first. I had 3 reasons for joining Toastmasters back in 2003.

  1. To become an effective communicator and articulate my ideas clearly
  2. To meet like-minded people who want to improve themselves
  3. To enjoy the act of speaking in public, moving from fear to pleasure

Event today the same 3 reasons catalyzed me to restart my journey with this club. Same reasons; a new season.

Now let’s look at some differences in my life now compared to the year 2003.

  1. I was single back then, now I have a family; a lovey wife Anusha & a lively son Samyak aged 5 years
  2. In the year 2003, I lived in Bangalore, India and visited Bay area on work every year. Now I live in the Bay area and visit Bangalore twice every year
  3. I have lost around 35 pounds of body weight; I have also lost an incalculable amount of emotional weight. I look younger and feel lighter than I used to in the year 2003

From the year 2003 to 2011, I actively delivered speeches in Toastmasters and participated in speech contests. In the words of Jim Rohn, “I worked harder on myself than I did on my job”.

I completed Competent Communicator and Advanced Communicator Bronze manuals. When I took a hiatus in 2011, I was one speech short of completing Advanced Communicator Silver level. After 6 years of hibernation, I am now motivated to reconnect with my voice and shape my thoughts into words.

Today I am restarting my Toastmasters journey with a blank slate, starting from the icebreaker speech. My goal is to complete the competent communicator track by the end of this year.

I like community clubs because of the spirit, commitment & diversity. It’s rare to find these three elements in corporate clubs. That’s why I joined a community club this time. I have attended 2 club meetings here as a guest. The quality of speeches is outstanding.  I am joining HighSpirit Toastmasters club with a high spirit.

As I embark on this journey, I want to remember 3 key learnings from the last decade of my life and use them as a guiding light as I walk ahead.

  1. Perfection is the enemy of execution. Never wait for a perfect script to deliver the next speech.
  2. Progress is made by actions, not merely by intentions. Planning definitely helps, but action brings vision into fruition.
  3. The journey is more important than the destination. Enjoy every step in the path of progress. Don’t lose the moment in search of momentum.