Trophy shelves are a little heavier this month for a number of talented SMUS students who spoke their way to a fantastic finish at two recent public speaking competitions.
In late April and early May, Middle School students competed at provincial speech contests in English and French – and many left their event with a medal or a well-earned top-10 finish.
First, six students headed to Vancouver for the Grade 6/7 ISA Speech Competition. While all six did exceptionally well in very tough categories, it was Grade 7 student Amelia who earned a bronze medal for her funny but very true speech called ‘Farewell to the English Language.’ (Read her full speech below.)
Next, SMUS sent a large group of French-speaking students over to the Lower Mainland for the Concours d’Art Oratoire, open to French-speaking and French-as-a-second-language students from B.C. and the Yukon. Grade 6 student Sienna earned a gold medal, while fellow Grade 6 students Stefan, Robson and Marina all finished in the top 10 in their categories. Grade 7 students Angelina and Ava also earned gold medals in their divisions. Emma and Diya, in Grade 8, earned a silver and bronze medal, respectively, in their categories.
The Senior School also sent students to the event and performed just as well. Grade 10 student Oria took home a gold; Grade 11 student Delphine earned a silver; and Jiawen (Grade 9), Libby (Grade 10) and Becca (Grade 11) all placed top 10 in their respective divisions.
“I was very surprised when I won,” says Grade 6 student Sienna. “When I got a ribbon I said ‘Gracias’ instead of ‘Merci’, unfortunately – I spoke Spanish!”
She enjoyed the entire Concours process, including writing her speech in her second language, which she says isn’t much more challenging than writing a speech in English.
“My speech was on ‘The Best Gift’. Recently my grandpa had died and I really wanted to talk about him. There’s so much to say, so I came up with an idea of spending time with my grandpa and grandma and how that’s really fun, how being together is the best gift,” Sienna says. “It’s a little bit harder writing it in French, because English is my first language. But it’s super fun being able to see how far you can go with your second language.”
Amelia’s speech for the ISA Competition, funnily enough, was written and performed in her first language, English, but she spoke about how much she dislikes the English language!
“I’ve always had kind of a hard time with spelling because the English language is so crazy. Like, there’s kind of rules, but they don’t really count for everything,” she says. In her speech, she also takes issue with homonyms, silent letters and nonsensical sayings.
Having competed once before at the ISA Competition, Amelia says she felt a lot more comfortable with the writing and memorization, and focused a lot this year on the performance aspect of public speaking.
“This year I could really focus on my body language – how to stand and how to speak. Like if you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, you’re more confident. I don’t know why. And making eye contact with everybody also helps,” she says. “And when you’re presenting, you have to really known what’s important and what’s not as important, and you really have to emphasize those important words. When you’re doing a speech, you’re really thinking about how you’re saying it, not just the content of it. It’s almost like poetry.”
Farewell to the English Language
I have grown up speaking English – I speak it at home, I speak it at school, and I speak it when I play sports. Everything that I do involves English. But in French class, we are not allowed to speak English. So, as I will be entering the French room in a matter of hours, I must say Farewell to the English language!
I must say, I’m not going to miss it. All of the confusing homonyms, weird spelling, books and books of thesauruses, and crazy sayings makes for a very scattered language. Whoever invented this obscure language loved the letter ‘P’ but obviously hated its sound. Why else would there be a ton of silent Ps in words? You may be thinking ‘What do you mean? There are no silent Ps.’ Well let me tell you, there are! To name a few: psychology, ptarmigan, pterodactyl, and not to mention receipt.
I am a horrible speller, but I don’t think it is all me, I can blame it partly on the language. They try to tell us all these rules that are meant to help up remember how to spell things. ‘I before E, except after C’ or ‘If you weigh the height on a weird foreign neighbour.’ Simple enough.
I’d especially like to touch on all the silent GHs. What is up with that? Maybe the creators of the language decided whenever a word didn’t seem long enough, they would add a GH – seems legit.
But enough about spelling (although I could go on forever), next I’d like to point out all the homonyms. As if they couldn’t find enough sounds so that each word has a different sound, but no, there are 6,139 homonyms in the English language. And some of them have three different spellings, they all sound the same, but mean different things.
All these homonyms are useful for one thing though: yes, the one thing that is good about the English language is puns, such as ‘Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9!’ So it’s not all bad. I mean, who doesn’t like bad jokes?
There are 6,139 homonyms, yet there are 48 sounds that mean happy. Yes, 48! Some of the sounds include joyful, giddy, chipper, gleeful and tickled. Yet, it’s hard to tell if I flew (as in flying) or if I had an illness called the flu.
The word happy does not stand alone; the word sad has 46 other words that mean the same thing. That means that I could say, ‘I am happy, not sad,’ in 1,000 different ways, and yet English is the language of business.
Another very odd, and almost unheard of thing in any other language but English, is a double negative is equal to a positive. For instance, if I were to say that I am not not excited for French class, that would mean that I am excited for French class. What a language!
Lastly, I would like to point out the lovely sayings that we have in our language. We have taken some of our already odd words and made them make even less sense by putting them together in what seems like a random order. For instance, ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings.’ This phrase is meant to mean that if an activity or adventure is not over yet, then you cannot assume that it will stay in the same state that it is currently in. It has nothing to do with an actual fat lady singing, meaning the phrase is completely useless and redundant.
Another odd phrase would be, ‘I would do it at the drop of a hat.’ Again, this has nothing to do with an actual hat dropping; it really means that one would do something without hesitation.
It is clear why saying farewell to the English language would be something that you should just do when you are going off to French class. Thank you and farewell – or should I say ‘Au revoir!’?