If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Monday, 1 August 2016

Note to my students # 15

Khizr Khan, a Harvard-educated American Muslim lawyer gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention yesterday. It was a tribute to his late son, Capt. Humayun Khan, who had died in Iraq in 2004, serving the US Army. He was posthumously awarded bravery medals. Huffington Post says:
The speech simultaneously conveyed a father's love for his lost child and pride in his country, punctuated by a direct repudiation of Donald Trump. “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan pointedly asked the Republican nominee, referencing the site of his son's burial. “You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing. And no one.”
Khan's speech has since gone viral, with ‪#‎KhizrKhan‬ trending on Twitter. The essay by Doug Hattaway and Zach Lowe in Huffington Post goes on to analyse why Khan’s speech has made such a huge impact.
The first reason is that the personal story of a Muslim sacrificing his life for the USA challenges what psychology refers to as “cognitive dissonance,” in which individuals hold conflicting ideas or emotions at the same time. For example, some non-Muslim Americans experience cognitive dissonance because they value the ideas of religious freedom and tolerance, but simultaneously, also fear terrorism, and suspect that American Muslims aren't always loyal to the U.S.
Beyond the power of his son's story, Mr. Khan and other speakers also used powerful language by referring to his family as "American Muslims" rather than "Muslim-Americans." While the order of the words may seem meaningless, research has shown that these two constructs evoke surprisingly different reactions.
While people associated the expression "Muslim-American" with words such as "foreign" and "strict," and “mistreatment of women”, when the order of the words is switched, the same people responded with phrases such as “came to America for a better life” and “contribute to society.”
These reactions illustrate the importance of the first word in a message, which colours the reactions the words that follow it. The experiment also showed the power of the word “American” to help counter negative portrayals and perceptions of Muslims who are part of the fabric of the diverse society that the USA is.
You might wonder what the connection is between this post and its heading. In a moment, I am going to explain the connections.
Firstly, Dear Student, once you’ve crossed the threshold of basic grammar and vocabulary, when you are able to speak and write English, what matters is not the number of words you know or how fast you can speak. The most important thing about learning a second language is getting a feel of the nuances and the idiom of the language. And the Huffington Post essay, which I have summarized above, tells you how blending language and contents and arranging words carefully can lend your language that extra mile of impact.
Secondly, the speech we are referring to demonstrates almost everything a teacher can teach you about public speaking. This is a six-minute speech and I would strongly recommend that you watch it by searching the Net with the following string:
Khizr Khan's powerful DNC speech (Full speech)
Sunday, 31 July 2016

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