The talented groom, Gene Au, performing a cello duet, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, with a professional violinist!
Funny story: The night before the wedding, Gene asked me, “Can you translate a speech from Chinese to English for my dad during the wedding?” Gene’s dad is Cantonese. Though my Cantonese isn’t good, I can understand 90% of it and felt confident I could use my background in public speaking to make up for any shortcomings.
I asked for a copy of the speech, but there wasn’t any. On the day of the wedding, I talked to Gene’s dad to get an idea of what his speech would be like.
When Gene’s dad gave his speech, I was bewildered that he delivered the speech in English. I thought, “I guess my services weren’t needed after all.” Then, the bride May’s dad went to speak. And to my horror, Gene said to me, “You’re up!” A little context: May’s dad is from mainland China and only speaks Mandarin, a language I am terrible at. (Cantonese is very different from Mandarin.) Though I worked in Beijing for 2 years and took several years of Chinese school when I was young, I never became proficient.
The speech seemed to go on for a long time. I desperately listened for context clues and carefully grabbed on to any words I could understand (40-60%). I gameplanned his intent and thought of what he logically wanted to convey, given whatever words I grasped.
By some miracle, I managed to pull it off. I think 6-7 people who understood both English and Mandarin came up to congratulate me afterward, including the bride and groom. Crisis averted.
Surely, this was one of my finest moments in giving speeches. All those hours of giving seminars, practicing Mandarin, and speaking in Toastmasters paid off!
What were your most memorable moments in public speaking?