I Gave a Speech in my Target Language and Here's What Happened

In everyone’s life, there comes a moment where you just take a step back and say, “This has to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.” For me, that moment came last week. So if all of you would buckle your seatbelts, I’ll take you on the wild ride that was this speech I gave.

As a future prosecutor, a large part of my job will be public speaking and being able to think on my feet. This semester, I decided to join the Demosthenian Literary Society here on UGA’s campus. This organization is dedicated to the practice of a “better mode of speaking,” or the betterment of a person’s public speaking skills. 

Without a doubt, Demosthenian is one of the more prestigious organizations on campus, with their business professional attire and formalized rules of order. While it is a very welcoming group that encourages everyone to join, there are certain requirements that must be met before a student is allowed to become a member. The list is short, sweet and to the point: attend three meetings, speak at one meeting, complete the membership test and give an introductory speech.

Anyone who knows me knows that you can’t just give me an open topic for any type of speech or essay, especially not if you attach the phrase “it can be whatever you want” to the end of your instructions. The problem is not that I have no ideas. It’s that I have way too many

Such was my dilemma the afternoon before I was to give my introductory speech. Just imagine my panic.

That was when my friend voiced the outrageous idea: “What if you gave your speech in Italian?” She meant it as a joke, of course, but the idea stuck. Before I knew it, I had scribbled down what ended up being a two minute speech in another language, and to say I was terrified would be the understatement of the century. Not only was I giving a speech meant to determine whether I would accepted into this esteemed society, I was giving it in an entirely different language with different pronunciations to an audience that, as far as I knew, had no experience with Italian. 

Was it the unique speech they were searching for? Yes. Was it the glimpse into who I am they wanted to see? Yes. Could it have gone over horribly and completely failed in being as clever as I thought it was? Absolutely.

Spoiler Alert: It didn’t.

By the end of the speech, everyone was wearing a smile, including me. It was something no one expected, and after finishing, all the members who had asked me what my speech was about before I had given it came up to me with the comment, “I’m so glad you didn’t tell me beforehand.” It was one of the most memorable evenings I’ve had in a long time, and when the president of the society handed me my (officially) stamped membership card, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

In short, the moral of the story is this: Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, because what may seem crazy at the time could end up being something altogether extraordinary.