Though being repetitive, we would like to emphasize once again that Toastmasters is Toastmasters. It is NOT a cost-effective English or Japanese conversation school or a group to learn the language itself.
The following describes the difference between a Toastmasters Club and English conversation school. For those whose mother tongue is not Japanese, the same applies for the Japanese language.
In Toastmasters we do not teach English.
Sometimes we Toastmasters receive questions like "Which should I join to improve my English skills, Toastmasters or an English conversation school?" There is no specific answer for this question. The reason is that learning English is not our purpose, so the nature between the two is totally different.
English is our tool of communication just like Japanese or any other languages.
In TMTMC, we do not require members to speak like a native speaker. Learning to speak English "perfectly" like our mother tongue is not our purpose. Instead, we practice our speeches so that we can convey our messages to the international audience. (Even when speaking in Japanese, there are many people who can speak Japanese as a second language, so we need to recognize the international audience as well in the 21st century)
There are millions of people in the world who speak English as their second language. Perhaps their accents are different from native speakers. However, we can see many non-native speakers from Asia, Europe, South America and many other parts of the world who convey their messages to the international audience confidently and effectively using English as a tool of communication. This is what we envision in TMTMC.
Internationally, Toastmasters values such concept. For example, we have an annual worldwide speech contest called World Champion of Public Speaking. In the past few years, a number of non-native speakers received significant awards, though the population of Toastmasters in the world is still outnumbered by native English speakers. We think that the speech organization, message, audience reception and delivery including body languages, use of vocal variety and pauses are much more important than speaking "perfect English".
This does not deny the importance of proper grammar and pronunciation. Instead, we provide an environment to use English as a communication tool on a regular basis, which could be a good motivation for the members to learn more about such essential elements of English 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 TMTMC, we have more Japanese-oriented bilingual 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 TMTMC and another Club.
"I am only interested in making speeches in English. I am Japanese, so what's the point in practicing Japanese speeches?"
There are English-only Clubs, and preferences are preferences, so selecting such Clubs is one choice. Especially it is effective if you already have skills or experience in speaking in public in your mother tongue. If not, however, let's think about it for a moment. Here is the experience of the founder of TMTMC, who joined a bilingual Club after experiencing English-only Club for three years; "If a person cannot make a logical, well-delivered speech in his or her mother tongue, do you really think that he or she can do that in a foreign language?"
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 in the speech organization, message and other content parts instead of grammar or pronunciation.
"I would like feedback from a professional English teacher." "Please correct my pronunciation one by one."
We are afraid that Toastmasters do not offer such programs.
We would recommend that you consider other places such as an English conversation school or a language exchange program.
"I am not interested in listening English speeches of other Japanese people. I am interested in speaking with only 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 somewhere else other than Toastmasters.
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