Gift of Gab: 15 Memorable Speeches in English for Listening and Speaking Practice
Giving a speech in front of a whole room of people can be pretty scary. Especially if you are giving a speech in English as a non-native speaker.
But you can learn from the best.
You can watch videos of famous, effective speeches in English to learn how to do it the right way.
In this post we will share 15 amazing speeches in English that you can use to become a more confident speaker yourself.
- Speech on Kindness by a 10-year-old Girl
- “The Effects of Lying” by Georgia Haukom
- “Education for All” by Cameron Allen
- Gender Equality Speech by Emma Watson
- “Rocky Balboa Speech” by Sylvester Stallone
- Commencement Speech at Tulane University by Ellen DeGeneres
- 2008 Presidential Acceptance Speech by President Barack Obama
- “This Is Water” Speech by David Foster Wallace
- Commencement Address at Harvard University by J.K. Rowling
- “The Great Dictator Speech” by Charlie Chaplin
- 2018 Golden Globe Speech by Oprah Winfrey
- “I Have a Dream” Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
- “The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln
- “Britain Does Owe Reparations” by Shashi Tharoor
- Mark Antony’s Speech by William Shakespeare
Speech on Kindness by a 10-year-old Girl
Do you think people should be kind to one another? This speaker sure does. And she knows how to convince you of the same.
This is a perfect informative speech for beginner English learners. The speaker is a child who is able to speak fluently but with simple words. She also uses her gestures and facial expressions to communicate her emotions with the audience.
This speech is perfect for listening practice. But learners should be aware that her pauses are not perfect. Learners should focus more on her words and the content of the speech than her intonation or pacing while practicing.
“The Effects of Lying” by Georgia Haukom
Even though the speaker is a student in the fourth grade, her speech is one of the most interactive speeches I have seen. She starts with a game and is able to make her main point through the game itself.
English learners will enjoy her speech especially because the vocabulary she uses is simple and can be easily learned. But it does not feel like a beginner wrote this speech because she uses her words so well.
If you want to learn the art of making basic arguments while speaking, you should watch this speech. She is able to convince her audience because she is able to connect with them through games and stories.
She also uses scientific studies to back up (support) her main points.
“Education for All” by Cameron Allen
This is a short and simple speech about why everyone in the world should get an education. Because the speaker is a child, the speech does not have complex words or sentence structures.
This is also a classic example of an informative speech. The speaker presents the main argument and the facts simply and clearly. She also gives the basic definitions of important terms in the speech itself.
This speech is perfect for English listening and speaking practice because it is so short but also full of useful information. It is also a good example of the standard American English accent.
Gender Equality Speech by Emma Watson
Emma Watson is a famous English actress who is best known for her role in the “Harry Potter” movie series as Hermione. She is also a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador.
In this speech she is trying to both inform and convince the audience of why men should support feminism. Feminism is a movement that asks for equal rights and opportunities for women.
She mixes her formal tone with personal stories to do this. The speech is also a good example of British English.
“Rocky Balboa Speech” by Sylvester Stallone
This is a speech taken from the movie “Rocky Balboa.” In this scene, Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, is talking to his son.
His speech is a classic example of a motivational speech. In these kinds of speeches, a person tries to inspire someone else, especially when the listener feels hopeless or is full of shame.
The basic message of the speech is that no matter how strong a person is, he or she will always face difficulties. And even though the message does not sound positive, Stallone’s way of speaking still makes it inspiring.
Stallone is able to communicate his message with love, even though he is criticizing his son and telling him difficult facts about the world. Generally, this is called “tough love” in English.
Listeners should also notice how he uses gestures to make his point.
Compare this speech with the Oprah Winfrey and Martin Luther King speeches (later in this list). All of them inspire their audiences but have really different tones. Stallone’s speech is the most informal and personal while Martin Luther King’s speech is the most formal and written for a large audience. All these speeches are in American English.
Commencement Speech at Tulane University by Ellen DeGeneres
A commencement address is a speech for students who have just completed their university studies and are about to receive their diplomas. This commencement address was given by Ellen DeGeneres, an American comedian and talk show host. In this speech she uses humor to deliver a message about believing in yourself and choosing your own career.
Learners can know more about how to use humor while they talk in English. They can also compare the special kind of American humor used in this speech to their own cultures.
DeGeneres uses sarcasm a lot in her speech. Sarcasm is the technique of saying something but actually meaning the opposite of it, to make fun of someone or something. For example, when she talks positively about the job market, the economy and the planet near the end of her speech, she is actually being sarcastic. When she gave her speech, the world economy was very bad and people did not have many job opportunities.
In the beginning of her speech, Degeneres also uses puns to make the audience laugh. A pun is the use of different meanings of the same word or similar sounding words in a funny way. When she breaks down the word “commencement” into “common” and “cement” she is making a pun.
Learners should compare this speech with the speeches of J.K. Rowling and David Foster Wallace (later in this list) and compare how they give the same type of speech in different tones.
2008 Presidential Acceptance Speech by President Barack Obama
Barack Obama was the first African American elected as president by U.S. citizens. He gave this speech after he won the election.
English learners can discover a lot from his speech. Obama talks about the most important issues Americans were facing back then and are still important to them. He also uses a kind of American English that is easy to understand. His speech is mainly about the values that he and Americans stand for.
Obama’s accent is a mixture of standard American English and the way of speaking commonly popular in African American communities. He is an expert in using pauses so that the audience can follow his words without breaking his rhythm.
As the speech is longer than most others in this list, you may want to listen to it in parts rather than beginning-to-end.
“This Is Water” Speech by David Foster Wallace
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
This speech is a perfect example of the mixture of casual and formal English. David Foster Wallace was an award-winning American writer who wrote about the culture of the U.S.
In this speech he talks about the value of an education in liberal arts (general academic subjects, as opposed to technical/professional training). He believes that this kind of education teaches you how to think and think about others.
This is a good example of American English. Be aware that in some parts of the speech he also uses swear words (rude/offensive words) to create an emotional impact on the audience. This is very close to how people generally communicate with one another in daily life.
So, this speech is better to learn casual English even though it is a speech given in a university.
Commencement Address at Harvard University by J.K. Rowling
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
J.K. Rowling is the writer of the “Harry Potter” series of books. In this speech she talks about failure and imagination.
In this speech, J.K. Rowling talks about her own life and how she overcame all her difficulties. She talks about education and choosing a career that was not her parents’ choice.
She also talks about how she made friends who supported her throughout life.
Language learners can hear how to use plain English in a formal setting. She also uses humor in the beginning of the speech to make her audience more interested. Since she is a citizen of the U.K., her accent is also a good example of British English.
“The Great Dictator Speech” by Charlie Chaplin
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Charlie Chaplin is generally known for his gestures and facial expressions. In this movie, he proves that he can use speech as well to inspire and entertain the viewers.
The movie “The Great Dictator” is a satire about the rise of authoritarian governments in Europe. The word “authoritarian” means a person or a government that believes in controlling others and does not believe in freedom.
In this speech Charlie Chaplin copies Adolf Hitler, but his message is exactly the opposite of Hitler’s ideas.
The interesting thing about the speech is how Chaplin uses short sentences for the most impact. There is also a lot of repetition that makes it easy for the audience to follow the speech.
For example: “…machine men with machine minds and machine hearts.” This part is an example of how repetition can be used to focus on your main message and make it memorable.
Chaplin uses the tone, rhythm and pitch of his voice to make the speech interesting instead of using varied words. Chaplin’s speech can be categorized as inspirational or motivational. It does not use formal words but neither is it casual or informal.
2018 Golden Globe Speech by Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is an American talk show host and actor who is known around the world for her interviews. In the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, she was awarded the Cecil B. deMille award.
Her speech at the award show is about many different topics related to American society. She is the first African American woman to be awarded the prize. She talks about how watching an African American celebrity get another big entertainment award many years ago changed her life.
She also talks about sexual assault and the search for justice in American society. The MeToo movement is the main subject of the speech.
Even though the speech is in formal English, Oprah is able to make it emotional and personal.
Learners should focus on how she uses chunking in her sentences. Chunking is the technique of grouping words (called chunks) in a sentence with a slight pause between every chunk. It also helps with intonation and the rhythm of speaking.
“I Have a Dream” Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
This is one of the most well-known speeches of the last century. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the civil rights movement in the U.S. The movement demanded that people of different races should be treated equally. This speech summarized the main vision of the movement using metaphors and repetition.
The speech begins by referring to the “Emancipation Proclamation.” The proclamation (official announcement) was an order by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that freed many slaves in the U.S. Martin Luther King talks about this because most of the slaves were African Americans and it was their first step towards freedom.
Advanced learners can know about the history and cultural conflicts of America through this speech. It is also a perfect example of the use of formal English for convincing other people.
Some of the words used in this speech are no longer common in American English. “Negro” is often regarded as an insult and learners should use words like “African American” instead.
“The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln
This speech, delivered by the 16th president of the U.S. (Abraham Lincoln, who we just discussed) is considered to be one of the best speeches in English. Lincoln delivered this in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where many soldiers had died fighting a civil war. It was fought between Americans who wanted to ban slavery and people who did not. Lincoln was there to dedicate a graveyard to the soldiers.
In this speech, Lincoln reminds the people why this was an important war. He mentions that the U.S. was created on the values of liberty and equality. And this civil war was a test of whether a nation based on these values can last for long or not.
He honors the soldiers by saying that they have already “consecrated” the land for the people of America. (“To consecrate” means to make something sacred or holy.) He reminds the audience that they have to make sure that the idea of America as a nation of freedom continues so that the efforts of these soldiers are not wasted.
This is a very short speech. Learners can easily listen to it multiple times in a practice session. But only advanced learners can understand it since it has several difficult words in it. For instance, “score” is an outdated term used for the number 20. And when he mentions the word “fathers” in the first line he is actually referring to the leaders who had founded the country of America.
“Britain Does Owe Reparations” by Shashi Tharoor
Even though Shashi Tharoor is not a native English speaker, his English is so fluent that he sounds like one. Learners from India will instantly recognize him because he is famous there for his English skills.
In this video, he is giving a speech as a part of a debate at Oxford University. He lists out arguments that support the idea that the U.K. should give reparations to its colonies. “Reparations” are payment to a country or community for some harm done to them. A colony is a region or a country that is controlled by another country by force.
Britain had a large number of colonies throughout the world between the 16th and 20th centuries. In this speech Tharoor tries to convince his audience that the U.K. should give something for the damage they did to the countries they had colonized.
This is one of the finest examples of a formal speech in today’s English. Learners who want to go into academics can learn how to organize their arguments with evidence.
The speech is also great for vocabulary practice. Plus, Tharoor has deep knowledge about both the national history of the U.K. and the colonial history of India. Apart from the content of the speech, his way of speaking is also impressive and is similar to formal British English.
Mark Antony’s Speech by William Shakespeare
This speech is a part of the play “Julius Caesar” written by William Shakespeare. The play is based on the life and murder of Caesar who was a leader of the Roman Empire. The speech is considered to be one of the finest pieces of English literature.
It is also one of the best examples of the use of rhetoric (the art of speaking and persuasion).
Mark Antony makes this speech after Caesar is killed by other leaders of the Roman Empire. Antony was a close friend of Caesar’s and here he tries to remind the people of Rome that Caesar was actually a good man. He has to convince the people that his murderers like Brutus are actually criminals. But he has to do so without directly blaming the murderers.
Advanced learners should know this speech mainly because of its cultural value.
Many words in this speech have been replaced by other words in today’s English. “Hath” is the older form of “has” or “had.” “Thou” has also been replaced by the word “you.”
So rather than memorizing the vocabulary, learners should focus on how Damian Lewis delivers the speech instead. The intonation, tone, pitch and rhythm is similar to the formal English used today. He is also good at conveying emotions through pauses and expressions.
If you keep watching videos of native speakers talking, you’ll get used to hearing how different people talk in English. After watching these speeches, you could look for clips of speeches or interviews on YouTube.
A video-based immersion program can give you even more native speech to work with. FluentU, for example, features news clips and inspiring talks among its English language videos. And the videos all feature interactive captions, so you can look up unfamiliar words while you watch.
The best way to learn the art of speaking is to first copy great speakers. Try to speak the same words in a style that is natural and comfortable to you. These speeches in English are the perfect material to master it!