Everyone likes listening to inspiring speeches. Gifted speakers have a way of making people want to listen and take action to change their lives.

But speeches aren’t just interesting because of their content. They are also great tools to help you improve your English.

Listening to a speech and taking notes can help you develop your comprehension skills. Repeating the words of the speaker allows you to improve your pronunciation. And writing a summary can help you practise your spelling and grammar.

To help you get started, we’ve found 5 famous speeches to help you learn English.


1. Steve Jobs: Stanford Commencement Speech


Steve Jobs was no doubt a great speaker. Millions around the globe were enchanted by the presentations that he gave for Apple as the company’s CEO.

However, he wasn’t just known for speeches related to product launches, like the iconic 2007 speech where he introduced the iPhone. He’s also known for inspirational speeches, like the one he gave in 2005 at a Stanford Commencement ceremony.

In this speech, he addresses the graduating students of Stanford University. He starts by saying that he never actually graduated from college. This makes for an honest and heart-warming speech. For nearly 15 minutes, he talks about his life, telling stories that are funny, relatable, and emotional. He also offers tips for students to apply to their own lives.


Why is it good for learning English?

Jobs uses simple language and speaks in short sentences. He clearly pronounces every word so it’s easy to understand and mimic. Also, this video comes with big subtitles that make the speech even easier to follow.



2. Greta Thunberg: 2019 UN Climate Action Summit Speech


At just 18 years old, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is one of the most well-known speakers of our time. Some of her speeches have even gone viral on social media. And her powerful words have been repeated thousands of times on climate strike placards around the world.

In one of her most moving speeches, Greta Thunberg addresses world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York. She challenges them for not taking action to fight global warming and ensure a future for the younger generations.

“How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she says.


Why is it good for learning English?

Greta’s speech is a lesson in how to express yourself on a variety of environmental issues like climate change. It’s full of lots of useful vocabulary. Plus, the subtitles will help you to understand any complicated language!



3. Will Smith: Speech About Self Discipline


You probably know Will Smith as an actor. He’s played a wide variety of characters – from a police officer in Men in Black to a single father in The Pursuit of Happyness. But did you know that he’s also a great motivational speaker?

A few years ago, a video featuring Will Smith talking about the secret to success went viral on YouTube. In it, he talks about mastering self-discipline as a way to achieve your dreams.

“You cannot win the war against the world if you can’t win the war against your own mind,” he says.


Why is it good for learning English?

As an actor, Will Smith has a clear and compelling voice, which is easy to follow. Some parts of this talk also sound improvised so it’s great for practising natural speech. It’s also excellent listening practice for understanding an American accent. And there’s lots of slang which you’ll have to guess from the context.



4. Emma Watson: Gender Equality Speech


You may associate Emma Watson’s name with Hermione Granger, the quirky and smart witch from the Harry Potter movies. When she’s not chasing evil wizards, Emma Watson campaigns for real-world issues such as gender equality.

In one of her most famous speeches, which she gave at a special event for the UN’s HeForShe campaign, Emma Watson talks about feminism and fighting for women’s rights. In particular, she explains why neither of these should be confused with ‘man-hating’.


Why is it good for learning English?

While the actress’s voice is pleasant and calming, the issues she talks about are thought-provoking and will leave you thinking long after this short, 4-minute speech.

This talk is great for helping you get used to a southern English accent. It can also give you some essential vocabulary about a relevant topic. Look out for uses of the passive voice in her speech, and write down those sentences to practise this grammar structure.



5. Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music


Benjamin Zander is the musical director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a well-known motivational speaker who loves to share his love for music.

In his 2008 TED talk, he found an engaging way to talk about classical music to people who know nothing about it. As you can see in the video below, he switches between speaking and playing the piano. And, he isn’t afraid to tell a joke or two.


Why is it good for learning English?

This speech is a bit more of a challenge than the ones described above. Benjamin Zander speaks fast and in a conversational style, using many examples and short stories to tell his tale.

However, the pauses he takes to play the piano give you time to take some notes. Write down any unfamiliar words you heard him say so you can look them up later. If you’re having trouble understanding him, you can always turn on the subtitles.



Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Gifted (adj): talented.

To enchant (v): to captivate.

Launch (n): a product release.

Heart-warming (adj): emotional.

To go viral (v): something spreads quickly on the internet.

Placards (n): cardboard signs.

Moving (adj): emotional.

Compelling (adj): captivating.

Quirky (adj): interesting and different.

Thought-provoking (adj): something interesting that makes you think a lot about the topic.

To switch (v): to change.

Tale (n): story.

To look something up (v): to search for a piece of information in a dictionary or online.


adj = adjective

v = verb

n = noun

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