Recently I made the decision to join a Toastmasters club in the city. For those of you who do not know what that is, I’ll try to explain it a bit here. Toastmasters is a club formed by people who want to work on their public speaking skills. And these clubs are everywhere. There’s probably one in your neighbourhood as well!
I came across mine by chance. It was at the Japan Habba that happened in February where I met the members of the 人生道場 (Jinsei Doujou), a bilingual Toastmasters Club. It is truly one of a kind. The club had begun with the intention to not just to help its members overcome their stage fear but also to encourage them to talk in their target language. This club has both Indians and Japanese members and it was expected that the Indians would try and speak in Japanese while the Japanese nationals would speak English.
人生道場 follows the same structure as a normal Toastmasters club would. Every week interested speakers have to come forward and deliver prepared speeches in their target language. This activity requires the speakers to write their own script, possibly in their target language and also deliver it in from of the other club members. Each person is assigned a mentor who would help them with the speeches in terms of grammar and usage of words.
Another activity that we take part in is called Table Topics. This activity requires you to give impromptu speeches based on a topic given to you by the Table Topics Master. The catch? They have to be in the language that you’re learning. Here one is pushed to recall vocabulary and grammar rules while forming a coherent sentence all in the span of a few seconds. Personally, I despise this activity.
Last Sunday I had the opportunity to be a Table Topics Master. It’s only after I took the role that I realised I would have to come up with a Japanese script, full with the introduction and the table topics and the thought of speaking entirely in Japanese excited me. Thanks to my mentor I learnt I need to work on my Keigo and my choice of words, though correct in meaning, weren’t necessarily natural.
On D-Day I spoke in Japanese. I didn’t have the courage to do it without the help of my notes. But I did it nonetheless and it was awesome! The session went well and we had a lot of fun. Participants had some really great responses to my questions. Both the speakers and I received feedback from the Grammarian and suggestions on how to do better next time as well.
I’m so glad I took up this role last week. I learnt a lot in the process. Now it’s time I begin preparing my speeches. Toastmasters club members have to follow a planned course that include focuses for growth with each prepared speech to be given. The first prepared speech that a newbie needs to give is called The Ice Breaker. The purpose of this speech is to get me up on stage (already done that) and talk about the simplest topic of them all – myself.