Home » Why You Should Speak English Like You’re Playing a Video Game: Marianna Pascal (Transcript)

Why You Should Speak English Like You’re Playing a Video Game: Marianna Pascal (Transcript)

Following is the full transcript of award-winning speaker and author Marianna Pascal’s TEDx Talk titled “Why You Should Speak English Like You’re Playing a Video Game” at TEDxPenangRoad conference. Marianna is also the Official Communication Trainer for Miss Malaysia World.


Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript: Why you should speak English like you’re playing a video game by Marianna Pascal @ TEDxPenangRoad


Marianna Pascal – Award-winning speaker and author

So for the past 20 years, I’ve been helping Malaysian and other Southeast Asians to speak better English. And through training thousands of Southeast Asians, I’ve discovered a very surprising truth.

I’ve discovered that how well somebody communicates in English actually has very little to do with their English level. It has a lot to do with their attitude towards English.

There are people out there who have a very, very low level of English, and they can communicate very very well. One of them that I remember was a student, a participant of mine, named Faizal. He was a factory supervisor – English level very very low – but this guy could just sit and listen to anybody, very calmly, clearly, and then he could respond, absolutely express his thoughts beautifully, at a very low level of English.

So, today I want to share with you what is so different about people like Faizal? How do they do it?

And second of all, why is this so important not only to you, but to your children, to your community, and to the future of Malaysia?

And third of all, what’s one thing you can do, starting today, if you want to speak with that calm, clear confidence that people like Faizal have.

So first of all, what is so different? How do people like Faizal do it?

So to answer that question, I’m going to take you back about 10 years, okay? I was training staff at that time, and my daughter, at that time, was taking piano lessons. And I started to notice two really strong similarities between my daughter’s attitude or thinking towards playing the piano and a lot of Malaysians’ thinking or attitude towards English.

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Now first of all, I should tell you my daughter absolutely hated piano, hated the lessons, hated practicing. This is my daughter practicing piano, okay? This is as good as it got. This is the real thing.

And she dreaded going to piano lessons because to my daughter, going to piano lessons, she was filled with this sort of dread, because it was all about not screwing up, right?

Because like for a lot of piano students, to both my daughter and her teacher, her success in piano was measured by how few mistakes she made. Now at the same time, I noticed that a lot of Malaysians went into English conversations with the same sort of feeling of dread. This sort of feeling that they were going to be judged by how many mistakes they were going to make, and whether or not they were going to screw up.

Now, the second similarity that I noticed was to do with self-image. See, my daughter, she knew what good piano sounded like, right? Because we’ve all heard good piano. And she knew what her level was, and she knew how long she’d have to play for to play like that.

And a lot of Malaysians, I noticed, had this idea of what good proper English is supposed to sound like, and what their – I see a lot of you nod – and what their English sounded like, and how far they would have to go to get there. And they also felt like they were – like my daughter – just bad, bad piano player, bad English speaker, right? My English not so good, lah. Cannot… Sorry, yah. Cannot… Ah –

So I could see these similarities, but I still couldn’t figure out, okay, what is it about these people like Faizal, that are so different, that can just do it smoothly, calmly, with confidence?

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One day, I discovered that answer, and I discovered it quite by chance. It was a day when my computer broke down, and I had to go to a cybercafe. Okay, it was my first time, and I discovered cybercafes are disgusting places, okay? They’re really gross. They’re smelly, and they’re filled with boys. And they’re all playing noisy, violent games. They’re just disgusting places.

But I had to go there. So I sat down, and I started noticing this guy beside me. And I became very interested in this guy next to me. Now, this guy is playing this game that is basically, it’s like shooting people until they die. And that’s it. That’s the game, right?

And I’m noticing that this guy is not very good. In fact, he’s terrible, right? Because I’m looking, and I’m seeing, like, a lot of shooting and not much dying, right?

But what really interested me was behind this lousy player were three of his friends, sort of standing there watching him play. What I really noticed was even though this guy was terrible, even though his friends were watching him, there was no embarrassment. There was no feeling of being judged. There was no shyness. In fact, quite the opposite.

This guy’s like totally focused on the bad guys, smile on his face. All he can think about is killing these guys, right? And I’m watching him. And I suddenly realize: this is it. This is the same attitude that people like Faizal have when they speak English, just like this guy.

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