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Speak English like a Professional!

Would you like to be a professional speaker? Such a goal would certainly be challenging, but you can do it. How? Of course, one key is practice. The other key is to get feedback to help you learn from your mistakes. There is a place you can go to get both practice and feedback, and here's the best part. It's cheap! That place is called Toastmasters.

What is Toastmasters? Toastmasters is a public speaking club. Well, actually, it's more than 10,000 clubs all around the world. Each club is made up of 20 to 30 members who help each other become better speakers. Although most clubs are run in English, many clubs are run in other languages. In Hong Kong, for example, there are clubs that use English, Cantonese, and Mandarin Chinese. All members are volunteers - nobody in a club makes any money from the membership fee. The fee is used mainly for materials - you get two manuals (like little textbooks) and a monthly magazine when you join - and for things such as room rental.

Teacher Joe's club in Beijing is called "Global Communicators". GC was the second Toastmasters club in China's capital city. Although Joe is a native English speaker, he still could learn from other members' feedback. In every meeting, members have the chance to give two types of speeches, prepared speeches (usully five to seven minutes long) and "impromptu speaking" where there is no time to prepare and the speaker must try to continue speaking for two whole minutes. In addition, members gain experience by taking certain roles, such as "timer", "grammarian", or "general evaluator". Every speaker is evaluated at every meeting so, over time, it is easy to make progress.

Toastmasters is not a place to learn basic conversational English, but if you already can speak English fairly well, you should look for a club in your city. Most clubs have a guest policy, allowing you to visit two or three times before deciding if you want to join or not. Even as a guest, you can join in the impromptu speaking (called "Table Topics") and see how well you can do. It's not easy the first time, even for native English speakers, but you will definitely get better with practice.

So, give it a try. You might find yourself on the path to great success!

Kung Fu Kitty!

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