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Public Speaking - University Tutorials

Febbraio 2018
Se una presentazione davanti a un pubblico universitario sembra già una sfida, persino nella propria lingua... presso un’istituzione anglosassone non basta avere una buona memoria: bisogna avere idee originali e chiare, per difendere solidamente le proprie argomentazioni.

di Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts
Rachel Roberts

Imagine this situation: you have been successful in your application to a British University to study a subject you really enjoy. Your English is pretty good – in fact you have an exam certificate to prove it – but when your course starts and you have to take part in tutorials, you are surprised to discover that you have to give presentations to the rest of the class. You don’t feel confident doing this and as a result you don’t perform very well.


This scenario can be surprisingly common amongst foreign students who go to study in UK universities and the reason is not because British students are more intelligent. The challenge is that the way you are required to approach a subject, whether you are writing or talking about it can be very different in AngloSaxon institutions.
University courses in the UK feature lectures, in large lecture halls, seminars with groups of around ten students and tutorials, which are small classes with around four or five students. For both seminars and tutorials, students are regularly required to prepare a presentation on a given subject to the rest of the class, complete with slides. The various presentations will then lead to some kind of debate. Apart from the difficulty of the topic itself, there are two main challenges foreign students have to face: what they say and the way they say it.


The first principle of any piece of work you do for a British or American university is that it has to be one hundred per cent original. It is not sufficient to learn three or four texts by heart, however interesting they may be, and then repeat the contents. In Italy, for example, students are often required to memorise huge books that may have been written by the professor teaching the course. In fact they leave University with incredible memories and almost certainly know more hard facts than most British students.
In an Anglo Saxon institution this would be considered plagiarism or quite simply copying. Anything you write or say has to be your own idea and preferably interesting and original.


So, if you are required to give a presentation to the class, the first thing to do is to read all the available material – you will probably be given a reading list – and make notes. If any sentences or phrases seem particularly interesting, you can of course quote them, but you must always mention the original text.


Once you have enough notes, preferably from a variety of sources with opposing opinions and points of view, you need to read through them and decide which ones you agree with. You must try and have an opinion of your own. Students who always come to the conclusion that ‘the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle’ never get very good marks. Decide what your argument is and be prepared to defend it.
If you include slides, for example in a PowerPoint presentation, choose them carefully and make sure they illustrate exactly the point you are trying to make, or clearly show something you are trying to describe.


It’s a good idea to write up your presentation. Doing this will help you to clarify your ideas and you may discover what you really think while you are working on the written piece. Don’t fall into the trap of reading out a long piece of written work, however. This will sound boring and monotonous. Once you have finished the long version of your presentation, summarize the main points in a few notes and use them when you speak to the class. What you say will sound much fresher and more interesting.

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Confident. Sicuro di sé. Anche in questo caso, attenzione: è un false friend. In inglese un confidente, inteso come qualcuno al quale confidare i propri segreti, è a confidant, mentre chi fornisce informazioni confidenziali alla polizia è un informant.

Hard facts. Fatti verificabili. Sono dati ‘duri’ e solidi in quanto incontrovertibili, perché si possono provare senza girarci intorno, o manipolarli.