How to Create Strong Analysis of Your Impromptu Speech Through Quotes and Proverbs Interpretation (Part 1)

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
How to Create Strong Analysis of Your Impromptu Speech Through Quotes and Proverbs Interpretation (Part 1)

What do we have in common with tigers? Apparently, a lot. From Confucius to Madonna, humans have thought of all sorts of wise sayings to relate our lives to almost anything, including tigers. “Better to live one year as a tiger, then a hundred as sheep.” “Better to master one mountain than a thousand foothills.” “Better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.” Humans have created these memorable sayings to teach future generations about life experiences. Impromptu speaking takes these teachings one step further. In this article, you’ll learn how to interpret quotes and proverbs to create a strong analysis for your speech.

Before we begin, let’s do a quick review of impromptu rules. In each round, you’ll draw three prompts from an envelope. You must select one prompt to speak about and begin preparing for your speech. In total, you’ll have seven minutes. This period can be used in any way you see fit. This means that you may prepare for three minutes and speak for four, or prepare for two minutes and speak for five. In high-level competitions, the latter timing is actually mandatory. But don’t worry about that for now.

Instead, let’s focus on what prompts you might be given, aside from tigers. Impromptu prompts generally fall into three categories: sentences, words, and pictures. We’ll be focusing on sentences for this article, which include quotes and proverbs.

What are quotes?

Quotes are statements written or spoken by an individual such as, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing,” by Walt Disney.

What are proverbs?

Proverbs are traditional sayings that express a general truth based on common sense or experience, like “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.”

Quotes and proverbs are the most popular prompts given, but they’re also the most difficult because of the need for interpretation. There are two stages to analyzing your prompts: determine its meaning and take a stance through a well-crafted thesis statement.

Step one, determining the author’s meaning. You can do this by asking yourself three questions. Say you’ve chosen the quote: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds,” by Albert Einstein.

First question, who and what is being talked about? Some “who’s” are more obvious than others. Einstein uses the keywords “great spirits” and “mediocre minds” to contrast two groups of people. We can assume that people with “great spirits” are passionate or motivated because the word spirit is often a reference to energy level. “Mediocre minds” means people whose level of thinking is average. The “what” can be found by looking for the verb. In this case, the verb is “encountered.” What did these passionate people encounter? A violent opposition, or resistance, from people who are average-minded.

Second, what is the overall tone? Hopeful? Pessimistic? Inspirational? This particular quote feels as if the speaker is indignant, meaning angry or frustrated at the fairness of his situation, where talented people are violently shut down by those who should not be doing so. If you are familiar with the author, you might dig even deeper to understand the statement’s context. For instance, Einstein was a physicist whose Theory of Special Relativity prompted a radical shift in our understanding of spacetime. To get to this position, it’s likely that he encountered challenges, so perhaps the phrase “great spirits” referred to Einstein himself, and his struggle against people who did not believe in his work.

And finally, is there any hidden meaning? Some quotes or proverbs you might receive have similes or metaphors that will require more thought. Since Einstein’s quote doesn’t have a hidden meaning, let’s look at this Australian proverb: “The earth does not shake when the fleas cough.” It’s clear we are not talking about earth and fleas. What you want to do is break down the sentence into different parts and compare them. You might ask, “What’s the biggest difference between earth and fleas?” Their size of course! So, if you replace these two words with sizes, you know that something big does not shake when something small coughs. But this shake and cough seem to also be hidden meanings. So, with further comparison, you realize they’re both types of movements, but a cough is an action and shaking is more of a reaction. With this thought in mind, you now have, something big that will not react just because something small acts. To make it even clearer, let’s think about the “who” in proverbs; actions like these are usually associated with people, so the sizes might then reflect the strength of people. If you put it all together, the quote could mean, “People with strength or power will not react just because those who are weak act.” Great! You’ve now determined the prompt’s meaning.

It’s important to note that even if your interpretation is not 100 percent accurate, so long as you’re able to clearly explain this thought process, you won’t be penalized. For instance, our Australian proverb actually means, “Those that are powerful are not afraid no matter how much noise the weak make.” So, our interpretation was close but not quite the same. And that’s okay!

After all, it can be hard to visualize yourself as a coughing flea. But at least now it won’t be hard to visualize the three questions needed to determine the meaning of a quote or proverb. Head over to the second part of this article, and you’ll learn how to take a stance on your prompt.

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike