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!