Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Glossophobia, 52 Gajillion. Humans, 2 (Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama).

Why is it that society will endeavor to 'cure' you of your fear of public speaking? Professors, religious advisers, brothers-in-law and their ilk will push you, nudge you, urge you towards that pulpit, that stand, that cursed microphone and bid you speak, speak, speak!

They think this will cure you. Help you, in some way, through experience.

Oh, how wrong they are, my friends. How very wrong they are.

Today I was the unfortunate witness of the take-over of one poor soul by glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. The background to this story goes a little something like this: In my second year Spanish class, we are required to give a five minute presentation on a cultural topic. We are required to speak en espanol (that means in Spanish for all you gringos).

For someone suffering from social anxieties such as public speaking, standing in front of any crowd for five minutes and speaking in your own language would be terrifying enough. But speaking in a foreign language, one that you are shaky in at best, in front of a large group of people, and then be graded on your performance is a little mind numbing, to say the least.

Today it was a classmate's turn to give her presentation. She stood in front of the class, set up her power point, and said (in Spanish) "My presentation is on Freda Kahlo." She no more got those words out of her mouth then she burst into tears. She fumbled for the door saying "I...can'!", and promptly fled from the room.

We sat in stunned silence.

I repeat, the cure to public speaking is not public speaking.


Heather said...

Yikes! That must have been very painful, for her & as a spectator. :(

heather said...

I'm with the barrel of tears girl and you are also right. Let's take Kim for example. She hating spiders, one wouldn't toss her in a barrel of spiders and say "see, not so bad."

p.s. i loathe public speaking.

heather said...

hey, could you email me STAT.

i have a question.


Liv said...

AHH!! That's horrible. Why would a teacher make a person do that? All my foreign language oral exams were just one-on-one with the teacher. It was more like a conversation than a speech!!

Lloyd said...
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Jack & Lindsay Chang said...

Those are the kinds of situations that you wish you could film!
I wonder how she is doing now?
Oh, dear. I just had a thought. They would not make you speak in front of the whole class if you were a first year, would they?

Abby said...

No, I don't know of any teachers who made anyone speak in front of the class in first year. This is all new to me. We did and do, like Liv said, still have one on one oral exams with the teacher which are also VERY SCARY. Well, for me anyway.

Abby said...

And yeah, you're exactly right, Heather. We wouldn't put Kim in a barrel full of spiders to cure her of her fear of spiders. That's why I don't understand when people say that you will cure your fear of public speaking by speaking in public. It's lame.
One time, Kim and I went to Outdoor EFY. Among the many stories I have from that trip, one is that the we had to do a bunch of height things. You know, like in the air. High in the air. I am deathly afraid of heights. I failed on a couple of the courses and only completed one, I think. Anyway, the councelors wrote me a letter saying I had 'trust issues' because I wouldn't trust my partner on the height excercises. It was a bunch of bull crap. I'm just afraid of heights people! Leave me the fetch alone!

Leslie said...

I seriously love you Abby. Your blog brings me mucho joy...yep, never took Spanish.
I feel so bad for that girl! My worst public "speaking" incidence was when I was in my last year of sign language at the U. My teachers were all deaf from year 2 on and our last assignment was a class debate of sorts between teacher and student. And of course my hands didn't work under pressure and I was sweating bullets (not to mention the fact that I had no idea what my teacher was asking me.) That language is so freaking hard. I WANTED to run away and cry as well.

Abby said...

Oh my gosh Les! That would have been so scary! I think public speaking in a language other than your own (including sign language) is far worse than speaking in your own language.

The Kilpacks said...

I HATE speaking in public. Not high on my list. I had speak nat back to school night this year and I seriously thought that I was going to be sick by the time that I was done! I hated every minute of it...and I'm pretty sure it DIDN'T cure me of speaking in public. That poor girl. :(

Kjersti said...

This reminds me of a time when I was in choir and we all had to sing solos as one of our projects. One of the guys in class got up, a cool, rebellious kid. He started singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and you could see the tears welling up in his eyes, he was so scared and embarassed. It was awful for him and all the rest of us!
I hate public speaking. When I try to talk in front of people I always find that I can't take a deep breath, and since my breaths are so shallow I have to take about three times as many. Does that happen to anyone else?

Abby said...

Oh, that totally happens to me, Kjersti! One time I was speaking in church and about half way into I realized I wasn't breathing at all! Terrible.

GreatManagement said...

Public Speaking is scary and daunting...but unfortunately, it is also an essential get on in life / career.

The question is...what is the fear?

In the majority of cases, it is the fear of looking stupid, the fear of forgetting your speech, the fear of a 'hard' question you cannot answer.

You can prepare, prepare, prepare. I work with the World Champion of Public Speaking and he says the only way to get better is to actually publicly speak (and start off with a very small audience).


Abby said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I love newcomers.
I am curious, who is the World Champion of Public Speaking?

And another question on fears, why is it speaking? I have performed in front of thousands of people at one time, and that wasn't nearly as nerve wracking as public speaking.
Sure I could dance a little jig for ya, but don't ask me any questions! What's up with that?