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speech is twofold: “We let our experiences be blurred, not observing sharply, nor knowing with any minuteness what we are thinking about; and so there is no individuality in our language. And, then, besides, we are terrorized by custom, and inclined to say what we would say by what others have said before. The cure for the first of these troubles is to keep our eye on our object, instead of on our listener or ourselves; and for the second, to learn to rate the expressiveness of language more highly than its correctness. The opposite of this, the disposition to set correctness above expressiveness, produces that peculiarly vulgar diction known as 'school ma'am English,' in which for the sake of a dull accord with usage all the picturesque, imaginative, and forceful employment of words is sacrificed. Of course we must use words so that people can understand them, and understand them, too, with ease; but this once granted, let our language be our own, obedient to our special
59. Clear Enunciation.—The fact that you do not know beforehand what you are to talk on, and that you have not thought out in a systematic way your composition will tend to cause it to be indistinct. Consequently you must make a special effort to prevent your words from running together or being otherwise spoken indistinctly.
60. Unity.-Unity, the principle of talking about one thing at a time, of having oneness to what you say, is more important in oral than in written composition. As has been previously mentioned, the hearer of an oral composition hears it only once; the reader of a written composition may read it as many times as he likes-till he understands it thoroughly. Then, too, unity is vitally important in the third form, for you are more liable to wander from your subject here than in the first two forms. In the first two types you have thought about your talk, and know, in a measure, what you are to say.
*G. H. Palmer, Self-Cultivation in English.
61. Self-Possession.—Because the third form is to be spoken without preparation, you at first may be a bit “shaky”-lacking in self-confidence and full control of yourself. But you are not nervous or disturbed when you discuss a subject in an ordinary conversation. Why the difference between your action and feeling in the two methods of talking! Your selfpossession in conversation is due to your frequent and unconscious practice of conversational talk. Your being somewhat ill at ease in oral composition is to be accounted for by your lack of experience in that mode of talking. From the very first, determine to be self-possessed, calm. Frequent practice will bring about the desired results.
62. Practice. The old adage “Practice makes perfect” may not be wholly true, but it is headed in the direction of truth. You might know a great deal about French,—have a large vocabulary, know the grammar, understand the rules for pronunciation, and be able to pass intelligent judgment on some other person's pronunciation,-but if you yourself never practiced speaking French, you would be unable to speak it. And so with oral composition,—with practice come
ease, fluency, self-possession, naturalness,-and all those qualities that make for a pleasant, entertaining talker. You must practice with a conscious effort towards a desired end. Perfunctory
a . practice is worthless.
63. Your Topic Must be Familiar to You. Since you are not to think beforehand on what you are to say, you should have a topic that you are already fully acquainted with, and could discuss intelligently offhand in a conversation. It was once said of one of our former politicians, Martin Van Buren, that he could talk an hour on any subject given him, and at the end of the hour no one could tell on which side of the question he was speaking, or sum up what he had said. You do not care to cultivate this ability. If you are assigned a topic upon which you frankly cannot talk except in a general way, tell your instructor that you do not know enough about the topic. It is harmful to get into the habit of uttering words when you have nothing to say.
64. Stick to True Things.—Do not attempt to tell a narrative that has no basis of fact, or to describe an imaginary person or place. You will fail to be clear in what you say, because you cannot visualize what you have had no experience with. You will show inconsistency in your talk. To relate the fictitious in a written composition, or in the second form of oral composition, would have no serious disadvantages, for here you would have time to work over what you had composed, and make the whole consistent.
65. Beginning and Ending Your Talk.-Do not become excited when your topic is given you. Remember that an oral theme is much like an informal conversation. Imagine some one (your teacher, in
, this case) has asked you a question, and you are merely giving an extended, uninterrupted answer.
Begin talking in an introductory fashion on that part of the subject that appears to you as logically belonging at the first. As you talk, let your mind move in advance of what you are saying, to think of what you are to say next, -just as a good reader looks in advance of the particular words he is uttering. Make an effort in your first impromptu talks to use the mental outline. Flash your mind rapidly over the subject to see what large divisions it naturally falls into, and which of these divisions should come first. Then take up these different parts-thinking of just one at the time. Don't mix them. A few attempts at mental outlining will surprise you as to how well you can do it with a little practice.
Consciously strive to bring out a unity of impression on those listening to you. Let everything you say and your manner of talking stress this impression.
Think about your conclusion before you reach it; reach it, and stop.
66. The Three Exercises of the Third Form.-The third form is divided into three exercises, or gradations, which aim to bridge the gap between the second and third form, and which gradually rise from a rather simple type of talking to a more difficult type. Each exercise will be readily understood after you have read the short explanatory section dealing with it.
67. First Exercise of the Third Form.-Pick out three topics with which you are familiar, and on which you could talk. These topics should not be related. Do not select such related topics as the following:
1. My Trip to California.
3. The Big Trees of California. Write them on a slip of paper with your name at the top. Hand the paper to your instructor at the beginning of the hour. He will select one of the three upon which you are to talk. Do not think over these before coming to class. The only preparation you need is merely to choose topics upon which you could talk intelligently in a conversation, and to turn them in to your teacher.
1. An Oral Composition of the First Exercise The following three topics were submitted for an impromptu oral composition of the first exercise. The instructor chose the second for the student's talk.
1. Bee Culture.