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Foreign Speeches in Latin America


Underestimating a ¨third world country¨ may be easy when making a speech there. However make sure you do not. Typically highly educated people attend meetings with foreign speakers and you can rest assured they will be a critical audience. Here are some of the most common errors we've encountered in foreign speakers and some useful suggestions.


Are you one of those people that give speeches in English in Latin America? If you are or you think you may be invited to be one, please consider these comments when you work with your script.

First of all: you are speaking in English because you can't speak Spanish. It's not because English is better, so an apology for not knowing the local language can get you on the right foot.

If you speak at a professional audience it is very possible that many will know English very well. Consider also that some may speak English better than you do. If you think it is impossible just look at the amount of people not wearing ear phones, probably 40 %. Out of those it is likely that several have attended College or Post Graduate Studies in the USA or England. There may also be some who've been to English Schools or have attended extracurricular academies to learn it. You'd better believe that many will be able to make a list of your grammatical errors.

What's my point? Do not relax! Do not think the translator will be the only one to notice your mumbling, your jargon and or pointless comment.

Take the chance to study local authors on the subject you are going to talk about. They will most certainly be attending your talk and you do not want them to leave with the impression that they know more than you do even about your own work.

It is also advisable to visit one or two local landmarks and compliment the audience about it in a credible way. That flatters people and makes them feel you are willing to learn during your trip to their country. This will not only help you warm up to the audience but it will also give you a chance to enjoy a magnificent continent with exuberant cultural and natural treasures.

Also, feel free to make as many jokes as you want and you will get an immediate response. Sense of humor is abundant and appreciated in Latin America. Political correctness is not that important so you might loosen up a little. Black humor, though always dangerous, might still be an option. Since there is a cultural flavor to humor, checking your jokes with a local reference could help you make sure you are on the right track.

If, for your own reasons, you might still feel you are looking down on your audience then do not let it show. They will notice it. Do you know what they feel when they notice? They pity you for your ignorance and themselves for paying people of your caliber to come and talk to them. On the other hand, they enjoy and can learn a lot from experienced cosmopolitan people who are able to learn and respect any culture.

I'm looking forward to your comments on the topic.

Marina Crosby