I often recommend to students that if they want to improve their English, they should join their local Toastmasters International club. But it’s not just about speaking practice.
Why do I suggest this? First of all, this is a valuable organisation that helps people all over the world to transform their lives. People think it is all about learning to be a better speaker, but you also learn so much more. The most obvious aspect is that you listen to other people speaking. This not only improves your level of understanding spoken English, but also will entertain, educate and inspire you. Other club members will speak about themselves and their life stories, about their work, or hobbies, their passions. So you learn not only about the topic of the speech, but about the person too. And you learn to give feedback on the speech, requiring you to learn how to listen actively.
More than just speaking
In order for a club meeting to run smoothly, and for club members to grow and develop as speakers, there are many roles that have to be taken at each meeting. You will quickly find yourself immersed in this side of the experience. And through carrying out these roles, you will not only learn more about the art of public speaking, but you will be developing your leadership skills. You will learn how to give thoughtful, useful feedback to others. You will learn how to run meetings, how to deliver verbal reports and more.
There are leadership opportunities at club level, as part of the executive committee that each club needs to thrive. Beyond the club is the area, normally 4 – 6 clubs that are geographically close. A number of areas compose a division, and a number of divisions create a district. At each level there are opportunities for leadership and personal growth. There are also speaking competitions that start at club level and go all the way to the World Championship.
Why do people do this?
Everyone joins for different reasons. Everyone stays as long or as short a time as they want. Everyone benefits in different ways – not always the ones they originally expected.
You may join initially to improve your English, but end up staying for the leadership skills. Or you may become a future World Champion of Public Speaking.
While being a member of an English-speaking Toastmasters club is an excellent way to practice your language skills, it is not just speaking practice – it just may change your life. I challenge you to try it.
Details of all clubs, and information about the organisation can be found here.