Delivered in Madrid, Spain on 23 October 2010
Good afternoon everyone. Firstly may I congratulate you all on your regional conference of this very exciting, vibrant and useful organisation.
What Mike and his colleagues are doing here, by promoting the use of the English language in a positive and practical way, is helping to build bridges between people, helping to create understanding between cultures and helping to improve the prospects, both personal and professional, of our Spanish brothers and sisters here in the beautiful city of Madrid, and beyond.
I’m delighted to be in Madrid for my third visit in 3 years, and I’m very pleased to have been asked to speak with you, today.
In my opinion there is a distinct correlation between responsibility and success. The most successful people tend to have the most responsibilities. But responsibility and success do not come about by accident or by luck. To be successful in one’s career, or indeed one’s personal life, one has to be an effective communicator. One has to be able to exchange ideas and information clearly, so that knowledge can be imparted or absorbed effectively.
Knowledge is power, as they say, and professional people like yourselves place a high value on knowledge, because that information, that power if you will, will ultimately lead to your success. There are four parts to good communication in my view: writing well, speaking properly, listening actively and having positive body language. And I cannot stress enough the importance of that final category – body language.
Extensive studies have shown that when it comes to oral communication and body language, the words we use make up a mere 7% of our interpersonal communication. The tone of our voice has an effective impact of 38%. And our body language, something which we do without even thinking about, makes up 55% of how effectively we manage to communicate. In other words, speaking English is not just about using our mouths and using our ears, it’s also about using our eyes and using our hands.
Now that might seem somewhat daunting; the idea of not only having to learn how to speak in English and hear in English, but also to see in English and to move in English. However do not be disheartened and do not be afraid. Now what I’m about to say would probably devastate Her Majesty the Queen, so this stays between us, but the truth is the English language is not special, it is not exclusive, it is not impossible to master, and it most certainly is not British! The point I’m trying to stress is quite simple.
The way that you speak as you do now in Spanish, and the way in which the Spanish language completely envelops who you are, how you think, how you sound and how you are perceived, should be the approach you take with the English language. And the best way to develop your English, is to spend time with native English speakers, and to immerse yourself in English-speaking culture as often as you can.
Certain traits are of course integral to being able to communicate in English with confidence; vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation, comprehension, interaction, passion and creativity. The English language, just like any other global language, is a means to an end; a linguistic mechanism to enrich life, to acquire knowledge, to build human relationships and to become successful.
Unlike any other International language however, English is the language of global business, the language of foreign diplomacy, the language of the world wide web, as well as being the fastest growing spoken language in the world, and one that will soon overtake Chinese as the most widely spoken language on Earth.
So have fun with English, but also work hard at it. Keep doing what you’re doing, embrace the culture and the passion, the etiquette and the rules, the diversity and the ingenuity, and enjoy the limitless possibilities to turn effective, confident, articulate, interpersonal English communication, into a more fulfilling, a more successful and a more exciting, way of life.