Churchill reached almost the highest level in oratory. His speeches are discussed even 80 years after they were delivered. Part of the reason is how the British Prime Minister uses English, how he juggles words and meanings.
Let’s see what is so special about Churchill’s speeches and how to learn to speak English the way he does.
Where did Churchill have a love of English?
Before analyzing the speeches of a politician, for a start it is worth paying attention to Churchill’s youth.
In his autobiography, “My early life,” Churchill talks about how he came up with a special relationship with English.
He was an aristocrat, the offspring of one of the branches of the Dukes of Marlborough, so they put the correct English from a very early age. However, until the age of 12 he was not particularly successful. The future Prime Minister of Great Britain studied at one of the oldest schools in Britain – Harrow.
As Churchill wrote in his memoirs, a key role in the formation of his personality was played by Robert Somerville, an English teacher at school, who really taught the guy to love the language, understand it and use it wisely. Churchill’s talent as a writer and speaker originates from an analysis of complex English sentences.
Let’s explain. The teacher Churchill had his own method of teaching students:
“Is he [Роберт Сомервилль] he took a rather long sentence and broke it into its components, using different colors of ink: black, red, blue and green. Subject, predicate, addition; subordinate and conditional sentences, connecting and dividing unions! Each had its own color, its own group. It was like training, and we did it almost daily. ”
Actually, a similar grammar visualization method was quite effective in practice. Indeed, in fact, this is one of the varieties of mnemonic techniques with which the brain can easily find logical chains and identities in sentences, which makes grammar easier to learn.
Today, this method is no longer relevant, because with the advent of the Internet and EdTech services, methods have been created that provide much higher involvement in the learning process and also maintain high level motivation, literally inspiring to learn the nuances of the language. But then a similar technique was something unusual and very effective.
Actually, it was in Harrow that Churchill’s path as a writer began.
As he said in a speech to the London authors club:
“It is impossible to write a page in order not to experience the pleasures of the richness, diversity, mobility and depth of the English language.”
Churchill improved his language at various competitions of essay authors and reciters, where he often won. And this despite the fact that Churchill suffered from a mild form of stuttering and even quite a lisp. In general, the industriousness of the future politician could be envied.
Features of the English speech of Winston Churchill
Many students, when they first hear the recording of Churchill’s speeches, are surprised. At first glance, the politician speaks with a rather strange accent.
But in fact, Churchill’s accent is excellent British aristocratic English. The so-called “posh accent” or “upper received pronunciation”. But the lisp is a little distorting the sound of consonants, which makes them seem strange.
Take, for example, a portion of Churchill’s most famous talk, which is often featured in We Shall Fight on the Beaches. He uttered it on May 10, 1940 in the British Parliament, already being in the status of the country’s prime minister.
It is noticeable that with a slow conversation his lisp is minimal, but when he speaks quickly and emotionally, it becomes quite difficult to perceive his speech by ear. Words merge into one continuous bubbling.
In Churchill’s slow speech, the accent “posh” is clearly audible. The main ones are in the pronunciation of vowels.
Sound [æ], as in the word “man”, pronounced more closedly and becomes closer to [e] in the word “men”. The same thing happens with the words “that”, “have”, “end”, “at”. The sound becomes easier to perceive Russian-speaking, because almost exactly corresponds to the Russian sound [e].
Unstressed [i] at the end of words it becomes more open and emphasizes more clearly. This is noticeable in words where the letter “y” is at the end. Duty, tyranny, carry, steady – instead of the familiar reduced [i] at the end of words, on the contrary, it is very clear.
Sound [ʌ] becomes more rounded and long, which makes it look like [ɑ]. Pay attention to the words nothing, government, public, struggle.
Diphthongs and even triftones are often presented as one long sound. In the word empire [ˈɛmpaɪər]for example trifthong [aɪə] has been reduced to sound [ɑː] – [ɛmpɑː], and even without sound articulation [r].
Churchill’s literary works deserve special attention. Although he mainly wrote history books, his style is very good. It is interesting that in most cases he uses simple words, but at the same time connects them together in such a way that the text is read vividly and not boringly.
The hour arrived. I sat in the corner seat above the gangway, immediately behind the Ministers, the same seat from which my father had made his speech of resignation and his terrible Piggott attack. On my left, a friendly counsellor, sat the long-experienced Parliamentarian, Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles. Towards nine o’clock the House began to fill. Mr. Lloyd George spoke from the third bench below the gangway on the Opposition side, surrounded by a handful of Welshmen and Radicals, and backed by the Irish Nationalist party. He announced forthwith that he did not intend to move his amendment, but would instead speak on the main question. Encouraged by the cheers of the ‘Celtic fringes’ he soon became animated and even violent. I constructed in succession sentence after sentence to hook on with after he should sit down. Each of these poor couplings became in turn obsolete. A sense of alarm and even despair crept across me. I repressed it with an inward gasp. Then Mr. Bowles whispered ‘You might say “instead of making his violent speech without moving his moderate amendment, he had better have moved his moderate amendment without making his violent speech.”‘ Manna in the wilderness was not more welcome! It fell only just in time. To my surprise I heard my opponent saying that he ‘would curtail his remarks as he was sure the House wished to hear a new member’, and with this graceful gesture he suddenly resumed his seat.
And the time has come. I sat on the corner seat above the aisle, right behind the back of the cabinet, right where my father announced his resignation. To my left sat my well-wisher and consultant, an experienced parliamentarian, Mr. Thomas Gibson Baule. By nine o’clock the chamber room began to fill up. Lloyd George delivered his speech from the third bench down from the aisle, from the seats of the opposition, where he was surrounded by a handful of Welsh and radicals and supported from behind by a party of Irish nationalists. He began by saying that he would not make his amendment yet, but would speak on the main issue on the agenda. Hearing the approving cries of “Celtic edging”, he became inspired and spoke with inspiration and even furiously. I struggled to come up with a phrase that could be used as a bunch when Lloyd George rounds off. The weak fruits of my efforts instantly became obsolete. I was seized with anxiety, I was even close to despair, which barely restrained, trying to breathe deeply. And then Mr. Baule whispered to me: “You can say this:“ Instead of showing immoderate rage, it would be better to make a moderate amendment. ” These words seemed to me to be heavenly manna in the desert. And they sounded just in time, because, to my surprise, my opponent suddenly said that “he was closing the speech, as the chamber, no doubt, was impatient to hear his new member,” and, making this courteous gesture, he immediately sat down.
The language constructs used by Churchill are fairly simple. At the same time, the vocabulary is understandable even for students with an Intermediate language level. In this paragraph, you can select only 3-4 words that the student may not know.
At the same time, he emphasizes the narrative on emotions, and not on facts and situations, so the text is perceived smoothly and interestingly. It turns out prim English, which is not boring to read.
In vocabulary, one can trace very light hints of classical literature. For example, here “The hour arrived” is the main idea from the climax of “Frankenstein”. And here the climax is Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons. Most likely, such references are unconscious, but they hint at Churchill’s wide knowledge in literature.
What you need to do to speak and write like Churchill
Step 1. Increase vocabulary
You need a colossal active vocabulary. This is the first. According to various researchers, Winston Churchill’s vocabulary ranged from 45,000 to 60,000 words. That hoo how much!
For example, the average vocabulary of a person who studies English as a foreign language and is at the Advanced level is on average 4000-7000 words.
A native speaker with higher education has a reserve of 20,000-30,000 words. That is, about 5 times more. And the difference between Churchill and the Advanced student is as much as 10 times!
What is important, you need to not only know all these words, but be able to use them correctly. That is, turn a passive vocabulary into an active one.
Churchill greatly appreciated the accuracy of the expressions. For example, in official documents, he always corrected the phrase “Appreciate that” (Rate that) to “Recognise that” (Recognize that). By the way, when reading the laws, he often left marginal notes with links to “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage”. That is, he ruled the lexical and spelling mistakes of lawmakers, referring to the correct use of words in the dictionary. Right grammar-nazi, no matter how grotesque it may sound.
He did not hesitate to correct others if they said something wrong. For example, there is a moment in the memoirs when Churchill was driving in a car with his personal secretary, John Martin, near the Thames. And he in a secular conversation called the tortuosity of the Thames “extraordinary” (exceptional). Churchill corrected him to the fact that all the rivers are winding, there is nothing “extraordinary” here. And the tortuosity is rather “remarkable” (outstanding).
Churchill retained such accuracy in the use of English everywhere: in all his books, in all documents, in all speeches. Despite the fact that he mostly spoke in simple words that are understandable to the majority, he never hesitated to use a catchy word that describes thoughts as fully as possible.
Actually, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature precisely for “the unsurpassed historical and biographical description”.
Step 2. Write texts. Many texts
In the literary environment, Churchill is best known as the author of serious historical books on the history of the 20th century, including the history of the Second World War.
But in his young years he wrote a lot, and not only on his own behalf. Churchill did not like Latin very much, because it was time-consuming. Therefore, he wrote an essay in English for his fellow students, and they did Latin for him.
In general, the activities of a politician were constantly associated with writing various kinds of texts.
Interestingly, all the famous performances are not improvisation. Churchill paid much attention to preparing the text of the speeches, sometimes rewriting them ten times. With various combinations of words, he tried to achieve a clear effect or emotion from the audience. This accuracy of the language is difficult to train, because you need to clearly understand even the smallest semantic connotations of each word.
So you need not only to learn words, but also to learn how to use them correctly, to delve into the subtle meanings and combinations of these meanings.
Step 3. Love English
Yes, that’s so simple. Churchill repeatedly confessed his love of the English language. He enjoyed studying its nuances and reciting poems. He knew by heart huge pieces of Shakespeare’s works, and when he was captured during the Boer War, he entertained himself and others with reading these passages.
One of the components of Churchill’s domestic policy was the support of English within the country. Huge efforts were made to make English truly prestigious.
Along with this, he actively promoted Basic English – an artificial language created on the basis of English, but with a vocabulary of only 850 words. He strove to make him popular all over the world. To carry out such a simple linguistic expansion. Although history has decreed that today the global leadership of the English language is almost impossible to dispute. Even without Basic English.
Language should bring pleasure and satisfaction. In general, it doesn’t matter how exactly this happens. Either through interesting teaching methods and tools, or through cool examples based on your favorite books and films, or thanks to clearly defined goals and dreams that you strive to achieve. Just understand for yourself that English is cool. And learn English like Winston Churchill.
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