lundi 27 mars 2017

Learn something great…. whilst you're learning a language

A few weeks ago, I shared a conference given by Carol Bausor. I then had the opportunity to discuss language learning issues with her. Now, I have the pleasure of her writing the 100th article of my blog. Thanks Carol!

If you're a great fan of … say …Real Madrid football team, you will do everything you can to seek out the latest skinny about the club and their results. NOTHING could possibly stop you: not even the fact that you can't speak Spanish. With the help of Google Translate, and perhaps your knowledge of other Latin langages, you will keep up to date with the latest news, right from the horse's mouth. And maybe you will even learn a little bit of Spanish at the same time. And now let's imagine you're French and totally hooked on GAME OF THRONES … you will be unable to miss an episode, and of course you will end up so frustrated because the (subtitled) episodes are way behind those in the original version. So you begin watching them in English. And hey presto! suddenly you're progressing in English !

Now I 'm an English teacher, and I know that the absolute best teachers for a whole generation never set foot in a classroom …. they were called « Friends ».

When you are irresistibly drawn to a subject or an activity which just happens to be exercised in a foreign language, you will do anything to nourish your craving, and will just happen to improve your language skills as a result ![1] So why not learn a really useful, enjoyable skill, and improve your English [2] at the same time ? The art of public speaking is essential to us all in our professional and personal lives. Who doesn't want to give a killer speech at their best friend's wedding ? Or deliver a totally irresistible pitch.

TOASTMASTERS is the place to learn how to speak in public in the most friendly, supportive, and international atmosphere possible. This international organisation meets locally in clubs of around 25 – 30 members. With 15,900 clubs in 142 countries, you will most certainly find a Toastmasters club near you, and if you don't, … contact Toastmasters International ( and create one. But first go and visit a club to experience the format, and see if it suits you. There are Toastmaster clubs in many different languages, and some bilingual clubs. In 2012 I created a bilingual French – English club in Lyon, France: the idea being that membership would be open to people who speak and understand both languages, and they could speak in the language they prefer. In fact my real objective was to create a club where members would speak in English, but knowing how many French people are apprehensive about speaking English, I figured that they would be reassured if they had a possible get-out clause … and I was right! Today our club has nearly 30 members and … we mostly speak in English!

People join TOASTMASTERS for a whole host of reasons: some people want to meet other people, some people give presentations at work and wish to improve, some people have a special event to prepare for where they need to give a speech, and some people are just looking for a way to improve their communication skills in a given language.

The format of TOASTMASTERS meetings is based on having fun, and being mutually supportive to learn how to speak effectively in public. Each member is attributed a Mentor, and benefits from friendly coaching in order to advance. People who are terrified of speaking in public are able to overcome that fear rapidly. Yes, everyone!
The shared interest in personal development, and twice yearly contests which take place all over the world at the same time lead many TOASTMASTERS to participate in the biggest international speech contest in the world, bringing together 4000 or so participants from all over the planet …. and people who are interested in talking make scintillating conversation! I wonder if any other organisation brings together so many different cultures, ages, professions … and - surprise surprise: has a 50/50 male female membership ratio?

Did I mention that membership fees are really low?

Just Google “Toastmasters + the name of your town” to find a club, or, even better, go to the Toastmasters International web-site ( and hit the “FIND A CLUB” section. Go and join a club and … you will learn more than how to speak in public, I guarantee!

Toastmaster member since 2010
European Toastmaster of the Year 2011
Winner of European Speech Contest in French in 2013
& still enjoying being a member of FOUR Toastmaster clubs!

[1] Dr Stephen KRASHEN, Professor Emeritus at University of Southern California has written extensively on the benefits of reading « comprehensible, compelling material » on fluency in both mother tongue and foreign langage skills.

[2] English or another language … depending where you live.

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