2021-05-18
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Editor's Note: Under the theme of “Challenge and Change”, the second English writing contest of SCNU has came to a close with over 280 articles from 28 schools and colleges. We recognize all prize winners for their excellent performance. Awarded winners have been announced (see results), and all winning articles will be published in this column.

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By Tan Qianyi

What? A two-minute impromptu speech! This short message destroyed the excitement of the news that I had made to the final stage of the Xiangqin Cup English Speech Competition.

It was not my first time to join in a English speech contest. The first speech made while at middle school, which was an utter shame, absolutely cast a gloomy shadow over me. The topic of the speech has already been long forgotten, but the scene was deeply engraved on my mind. On the stage, I stood rigidly like a statue, struggling to recite my draft mechanically word by word. I tried to make myself look more experienced and elegant by putting my hands in the front, yet my efforts were in vain. 

Before the speech, I had told myself, “to smile, to smile”. Yet, the moment I stepped on the stage, I felt rigid like a piece of wood. My face must have looked petrified and stony due to my nervousness. What’s worse, in the middle of my emotionless recitation, I forgot the words for the coming part. Feeling like a fool, I just ended my speech and ran down the stage in haste, like a defeated soldier fleeing away without grace and dignity.

For the next few years, I never dared to make any other speech, whether prepared or impromptu.

In September, when told that all English majors should participate in the Xiangqin Cup English Speech Contest, it was a great dilemma to me due to my past experience. For me, going through the motion of mechanic reciting might be the only option. Yet, an inner voice called out, “Don’t miss the chance. Without such a challenge, how can you make progress? Fight! You can make it.”

Being diffident about my draft, I turned to Joy, my English teacher for help. To my great surprise, she not only encouraged me to join the contest but devoted her time to helping me revise my draft speech again and again. By following Joy’s suggestions and watching the videos of the champions in the previous FLTRP English Public Speaking Contests, I found the mystery to a successful speech. 

Making a speech was to share with people my life experience, to spread my ideas, to awaken another soul sometimes. The theme of this contest was Challenges to All, so I wanted my audience to reflect upon the global challenges that confront us and what we can do to overcome them in the future. Being clear about the true purposeof my speech, I also realized the importance of having eye contact with the audience and using some gestures and proper facial expressions.

To deliver a speech fluently and to use the gestures and facial expressions properly was really beyond my ability. To improve myself, I practiced before the mirror about a hundred times. My videoed speech was a success, so I was able to reach the final round of the contest, which was to give an impromptu speech for 2 minutes on a real stage.  

To be honest, the news hit me like a thunderbolt. Making a prepared speech in public was hard for me, let alone an impromptu speech. Fortunately, the success of my videoed speech gave me some confidence. Where there is will, there is way. Determined to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the challenge, I searched for questions from IELTS writing tests and practiced them day and night. Gradually, I formed my own structure of making impromptu speeches and controlled my time well.

The afternoon of October 15 was the time for the final contest. More experienced and confident than before, I appeared on the stage, smiled to the audience, and began my story. I couldn’t believe that I was able to deliver my speech fluently with proper gestures. I even couldn’t believe my ears when the host announced me as a winner for the second prize. I was on cloud nine when I took my award on the stage.

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I am making the prepared speech in the contest.

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I (right two) receive my award.

Challenges were the valuable gifts that would push me forward to become the better version of myself. The positive attitude I held when facing the challenges, the confidence I built through the contest and the different thinking modes I have learnt from Joy constitute the treasures I harvested in the contest in SCNU. I am eternally grateful to my university, SCNU, for providing us with so many platforms to learn, to grow, and to undergo a dazzling metamorphosis.

Frankly speaking, I have wobbled over the idea of signing up for this writing competition for I’m not good at writing a long article. Once again, the inner voice calls out, “Do you want to challenge yourself?” Undoubtedly, I do. To win or not is not my purpose, what matters is how I improve after embracing a new challenge. When my article draws to its end, you can see I finally made it. Should I be proud of myself? 

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