Though repetitive, we would like to emphasize once again that Toastmasters focuses on communication, speech and leadership skills - it is NOT a cost-effective English conversation school nor an interest group getting together to learn English itself.
AtToastmasters we do not teach English.
Sometimes we get questions like "Which should I join to improve my English skills - Toastmasters or an English conversation school?" There is no correct answer to this question because it largely depends on what your focus is. Learning English is not our Club's focus - improving communication and leadership skills is - so if you join the club solely for the purpose of learning English, you may be disappointed.
English is our tool of communication just like Japanese or any other languages.
We call VTMC an "advanced English Club" because we set English skill requirements. However, the requirement is not as high as to require members to speak like a native speaker. Learning to speak English "perfectly" like our mother tongue is not our purpose. Instead, we practise our speech skills so that we can convey our messages to the international audience.
There are millions of people in the world who speak English as their second language. Their accent may differ from native speakers, but there are many non-native speakers from Asia, Europe, South America and many other parts of the world who can convey their messages to the international audience confidently and effectively using English as a tool of communication. This is what we envision in VTMC.
Toastmasters International values such a concept. For example, we have an annual worldwide speech contest called World Champion of Public Speaking. In the past few years, even though they are still outnumbered by native English speakers, there is an increase in the number of non-native speakers receiving significant awards in this contest. Good speech organization conveying the right messages, and the ability to capture the audience's attention through delivery including body language, use of vocal variety and pauses are much more important than speaking "perfect English".
That said, we do not deny the importance of proper grammar and pronunciation. Instead, we provide an environment where we use English as a communication tool on a regular basis, which could be a good motivation for members to learn more about such essential elements of the English language on their own.
Frequently-made comments on English and Toastmasters
"I am interested in Toastmasters, but I do not think my English skills is good enough."
Aside from VTMC, we have bilingual (English and Japanese) Clubs and Japanese-only Clubs nearby. (Click here to view the list), so you have the option of joining such Clubs or obtaining dual membership of VTMC and a bilingual or Japanese-only Club.
In fact, speeches in our first language is much more difficult and rewarding than often thought. (Note: most Toastmasters Clubs in North America are in English only and a large part of the members there are native speakers!) In our mother tongue, we are able to practice our speeches with more attention to the speech organization, message and the presentation aspects instead of just grammar or pronunciation.In fact, most of the VTMC founding officers are dual members of Japanese-only or bilingual Clubs.
"I would like feedback from a professional English teacher. Please correct my pronunciation one by one."
We are afraid that at Toastmasters, we do not offer such programs. We would recommend that you consider other alternatives such as an English conversation school or a language exchange program.
"I am not interested in listening to the speeches of other Japanese people. I am interested in speaking only with native speakers."
In Toastmasters, we do not select members based on mother tongues, nationalities or origins, according to the anti-discriminatory code. If you are interested in interacting with only native speakers, we would recommend you seek other alternatives rather than a Toastmasters Club.
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