Inspirational speeches: authentic recordings


Not only do these speeches give you goosebumps, they also provide exposure to a variety of accents!  You might like to use the extracts and transcripts below to work on ‘chunking’ with your students.  See our post about identifying and practising thought groups for more information on this, and our summary of an IATEFL presentation on using speeches to combine writing and pronunciation work.

We’ve typed out a transcript for each of the clips without any punctuation, to enable students to analyse how they think the words should be grouped, and where pauses should be placed.  See below for the transcripts or click here to download the Word file.

Malala Yousafzai

This speech took place at the UN and was given by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who was shot by the Taliban and is a campaigner for equal access to education.  The speech marked the occasion of her 16th birthday, which was named Malala Day.

(00.28) “I cannot believe how much love people have shown me Malala Day is not my day today is the day of every woman every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights so here I stand so here I stand one girl among men I speak not for myself but for those without voice can be heard.

“On the 9th October 2012 the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead they shot my friends too they thought that the bullet would silence us but they failed weakness fear and hopelessness died strength power and courage was born.” 

Note (1): You may like to just focus on the first paragraph above, as it is better to keep texts fairly short when working on chunking.

Note (2): According to the BBC, Malala Yousafzai’s first language is Pashto; her second, Urdu; her third, English.


Nelson Mandela

This is part of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech after being elected President of the Republic of South Africa in 1994.

(0:07) “The time for the healing of the wounds has come the moment to bridge the chasms that divides us has come the time to build is upon us we have at last achieved our political emancipation we pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continued bondage of poverty deprivation suffering gender and other discrimination we commit ourselves to the construction of a complete just and lasting peace.

 (00.51) “We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom we know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success we must therefore act together as a united people for national reconciliation for nation building for the birth of a new world let there be justice for all let there be peace for all the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement let freedom reign.” 

Note (1): You may like to just focus on the second paragraph above, as it is better to keep texts fairly short when working on chunking.

Note (2): Nelson Mandela’s L1 (first language) background was Xhosa.


Dalai Lama

There are no details given with this YouTube clip about the original date and audience for this speech, but he is likely to be a familiar speaker to many.

(0:08) “Some people they came to see me with belief that Dalai Lama has some kind of miracle power or healing power and that’s really nonsense sometimes the people introduce himself or herself they have some kind of healing power of course while I say very good very good but in my mind there is sceptical very very sceptical.

 (00.43) “Many of our suffering or problems are essentially manmade I think like the 11th September tragedy unbelievable sort of event these things are not happen suddenly but many causes conditions and the main that causes conditions one prime thing is hatred we must look from wider perspective and you can see I think today’s world I think rule of hatred limited rule of compassion is vast.”

Note (1): You may like to just focus on the second paragraph above, as it is better to keep texts fairly short when working on chunking.

Note (2): The Dalai Lama’s first language is Chinese; his second, Tibetan.

Dalai Lama

Albert Einstein

This YouTube clip does not provide details about the speech, but it’s a good one to use if you’re looking for a really short clip.

“I believe that Ghandi’s views they are the most enlightened of all the political minds in our time we should strive to do things in his spirit not to use violence in fighting for our cause but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil.”

Albert EInstein

Note: Albert Einstein’s L1 (first language) background was German.


Have you got any suggestions of speeches that could be used to expose students to a variety of accents?  Please leave a comment below!



7 thoughts on “Inspirational speeches: authentic recordings

  1. Let me first say thanks for your wonderful blog, which is full of useful and informative posts. I, too, focus on ELF, since my international students are coming on short courses to improve their communication skills as they work, study, speak and publish in an international environment. Thanks for these speeches, especially for the one by Malala, which I’m going to use with my international public policy students. The thing is: The talks that college students will be giving are generally less motivational, and more informational, so practicing the ones you suggest may to them seem slightly over the top.
    In my classes we generally use extracts from TED talks from the areas the college students are interested and working in to spot and practice thought groups. I’ve used talks by Hans Rosling and Pranav Mistry as great models for those. In other speeches we’ve identified individual words and sounds in isolation that can be misunderstood, for example in Mathieu Lehanneur’s highly engaging talk on science-inspired design. His visual design is fantastic, which builds their respect for the speaker even as students listen for ELF pronunciation. They don’t recognize differences when they are immersed in the content, so, like yourself, we isolate very short sections. To do that I’m using the methods suggested by Richard Cauldwell in his book Phonology for Listening. Teaching the Stream of Speech. Speech in Action. Birmingham, UK 2013. I reviewed here:
    Thanks again for your blog, and all the best to you 🙂 Anne

    • Hi Anne,
      Thanks so much for your comments and suggestions for further listening materials. We also use TED talks with students, though it’s hard to sift through them for useful clips for listening/pron practice as there are so many videos and some are quite long! We’ll definitely check out the ones that you mentioned specifically.
      We’re actually going to be speaking alongside Richard at a British Council seminar in June, so hopefully we’ll learn more about his material from the man himself then! We’ll also check our your review that you shared.
      All the best,
      Laura & Katy

  2. Pingback: Inspirational speeches: authentic recordings | ...

  3. Pingback: Thank you, London (and beyond)! | ELF Pronunciation

  4. Another great resource Laura, incredibly useful in my own classes. Lack of forward thinking on my part however, my Chinese students did have a bit of a negative reaction to the Dalai Lama talk unfortunately. We didn’t get round to it in class so I told them to complete at home for HW. When I asked them for it in the next lesson they reported back that they hadn’t done it because of their feelings towards him. I should have predicted it really, but one to note for anyone who thinks it might cause upset. Thanks again for a great resource!

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