I Can’t Speak


Some say that it is important to know your limitations: last night I met one of mine. A colleague requested that I speak in front of the Rotary Club. About 30 minutes, regarding my personal history and experiences in Japan, given in Japanese. Being tight on time, I didn’t do much preparation, which made it harder for me to relax. My speech was the last item (main item) on the agenda.

When I started speaking the meeting was behind schedule so the need to trim back on time also caused me more stress. At the beginning I had planned to very formally thank the person who introduced. My Japanese teacher thought this would be very amusing; however, I think my delivery was way off and got no response. Diving into personal details I was getting a rather flat response and progressively became more concerned.

One positive side is that my friend who invited me is normally looked upon as having mediocre English skills, but he said my Japanese was bad enough that everyone will now assume he must be fluent in English if we communicate regularly. In general I don’t think I am a very good public speaker and I think I really don’t understand what Japanese people expect from a speech, so in Japan I struggle more. Additionally I’m not sure which level of formality is appropriate in a speech.

My strengths lay more in conversation and a little in lecturing. So, I have to decided to stay in my realm or put a lot more effort into learning about public speaking in Japan. In any case, five of us went drinking afterwards and had a long, deep conversation in Japanese. At least that turned out well. I also received o-rei (御礼), which is an envelope of money as thanks for appearing. I wondered if I should give some back after my hesitant speech (or if the amount was decided based on my speech.)


5 Responses to “I Can’t Speak”

  1. sunkissd1 Says:

    I feel you! My new job requires me to speak to various sized groups, which creates interesting challenges and observations because the approach is much different. I’ve found that smaller groups can lend the listeners the impression that they are involved in a conversation rather than a mini-lecture/presentation and require more work/effort to keep them on task rather than turning into a 3 ring circus. I had a presentation at a company meeting on Friday in front of 30 agents with whom I’d like to do business. There was one jackass who thought the meeting was for himself only and interrupted a few times with questions completely unrelated to what I was talking about. I finally steered him into submission by telling him we’d talk afterward. Afterward I approached him, asked if he had more questions, to which he answered “no”. When I asked for his business card, he said he didn’t have any, he is new to the business. So basically he was interrupting the whole meeting just to hear himself talk…I wasn’t the only person annoyed.

  2. sunkissd1 Says:

    While I don’t get nervous about speaking to groups, I don’t look forward to it either.

    PS: the meeting was successful regardless. I walked away with some orders and a handful of new clients. 🙂

  3. びっくり Says:

    Wait, what was that guy’s name? I’m sure I’ve run across him before. 😉

  4. sunkissd1 Says:

    Probably Keven. He too always interrupts me with unrelated conversation when I’m talking. 😛 Lol!

  5. Keven Says:

    And you can’t stop me!!

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