Archives For December 2005

Speaking in front of an audience is one of the biggest fears among our society today. Such reluctance infects the speaker’s confidence and causes people to feel like calling in sick rather than keeping their commitment to speak in front of an audience. Not many people seem to be natural-born speakers. Are those who speak well in front of an audience gifted? Or, have they improved over time through practice and learned techniques? To find the answers to these questions, we researched Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters understands the common fear most people experience when it comes to public speaking and helps victims of anxiety find their voice. (Toastmasters Find). Enhancing communication skills and fostering communication effectiveness is the ultimate goal of Toastmasters (Toastmasters Find). To help its members overcome anxiety, Toastmasters builds confidence through a deliberate process of building upon strengths while eliminating weaknesses through practice. Continue Reading…

My Life in Language

Christopher Hurtado —  December 15, 2005

There is nothing I am more passionate about than languages and culture. My entire life revolves around words and their meaning. In fact, it always has; and my lifelong goal is that it always will. I grew up bilingual and bicultural. I began translating and teaching languages professionally at a young age. I have also become a published author and a public speaker.

From the time I was born, my parents spoke to me in English but to each other in Spanish. My mother was a Spanish teacher born in New York and raised in Baltimore. My father is a Venezuelan. When I was eight, my family moved to Venezuela. Although I’d heard Spanish all my life, I hadn’t learned to speak it. Now I had to. At first, I struggled to communicate, but I became fluent in less than six months. I lived in Venezuela for eight years. During those eight years, English was predominantly spoken in my home and Spanish outside of it. In school, ESL was a required subject. At age 12, I started tutoring my classmates in English after school. My parents divorced when I was 16, and I returned to the United States with my mother and sisters. At 18 I dropped out of school. Around the same time, I made a trip to Venezuela for a short visit with my father. While in Venezuela, I did my first paid translation job. My father accepted and delivered the job, but had me do it and paid me once he was paid. I’ll never forget that job. The topic of the translation was “the chemical composition of the Moore pecan leaf.” I still keep a copy of it to this day. I was thrilled.

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Civil Society

Christopher Hurtado —  December 12, 2005

The Church of Ascension on London’s Blackheath has a small metal plaque set into its wall that reads “Fellowship is life and lack of fellowship is death, but in hell there is no brotherhood but every man for himself.” John Ball, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, spoke these words nearby in 1831. Ball would not have thought of himself as part of “civil society,” but citizens who join groups, form associations or volunteer to defend or advance the causes they believe in have, in effect. echoed his sentiments down through the centuries (Edwards 1). However, “citizenship is not a cure for spiritual malaise but spiritual malaise is a roadblock to citizenship because it impairs the capacity to create the community institutions on which a civil society and a democratic culture must rest” (Barber 275). It is through our participation in the institutions that make up civil society that we learn what it means to be a citizen (Barber 276).

Citizenship can be defined as belonging to a community, or can refer to the quality of our response to our membership in that community, or how actively we participate in it. (Merriam-Webster Online). Civil society can be defined as “the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations or institutions which form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force backed structures of a state” (Wikipedia). According to the London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society these organizations and institutions act “around shared interests, purposes and values,” and are separate from the family and the market as well. Examples include “charitable organizations, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups” (Wikipedia).

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