How to improve your spoken English?


‘The Prague Post’ is a well established English-language weekly newspaper here in Prague. Since 2007, it has sponsored an annual playwriting competition for English writers currently or previously resident in Prague. From all the entries, the three best thirty minute plays are selected by a panel of judges for actual production. After several weeks of rehearsal, all three are then performed, on four different nights, spread over a two week period.

Sybille & I, together with Karen, an American ex-pat from the congregation, went to see the third of the performances on the evening of Sunday 1st March. Part of the attraction of going was that one of the plays, entitled ‘Early Retirement’, was being directed by Gordon Truefitt, a member of my congregation, and one of the three actors in the play was Gerry Turner, my Church Council Secretary.

‘Early Retirement’ was the first play performed. The plot is based around a British stressed out businessman, relatively newly married to his younger Czech wife, and her desire that he should take early retirement for the sake of his health. Gerry played the role of Dr Matejovksý, a slightly eccentric Czech. In real life, Gerry makes his living as a translator from Czech to English so, having to speak some words of Czech was not a problem. What he did very well was to speak English with a Czech accent, a far more difficult task for someone who is a native born English speaker!

The performance rightly got a good round of applause and set the standard for the evening. Unfortunately, from then on, things went downhill. The second play entitled ‘The King Size’, was laboured and went well over the allocated thirty minutes. And the third play, entitled ‘Forced Entry’, whilst of the designated length, was only a slight improvement.

In both cases, it wasn’t that the acting was bad – in fact it was of a high standard. The problem with both plays was the lack of quality of the plot and text of the play. In particular, what really grated with me and many others I spoke with afterwards, was the constant f…..this, f…..that and f……ing everything else that littered so much of the dialogue. Most if not all of it was totally unnecessary. I have often said that when f….ing is the only adjective somebody knows, it is evidence of both of the person’s ignorance and their lack of vocabulary. Sadly, it is my view that a similar comment could be made about both of the playwrights.

The competition is meant to provide both entertainment for English-speaking expatriates but also help Czech people wanting to improve their spoken English. However, as far as I am concerned, all the second and third plays did was to offer a very debased version of the English language.

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