After my wife had introduced me to the Rotary Club of Phyathai, she took me to the Siam Toastmaster club. Toastmasters, I though by myself... what are they doing ? Are they masters in toasting bread, or are constantly toasting to each others health ? It turned out that - what a surprise - none of the above was true. Toastmasters International is a worldwide organisation with the goal to help their members to achieve better speaking and communication skills. Why are there so many Toastmaster clubs in Thailand ? I think it is because Thailand has never been colonised, neither by the French nor by the Commonwealth. Good thing one might think, or bad ... depending on the point of view. Fact is that speaking English is not one of the strength of Thai people, which does not mean that they don't learn English in school, but they are taught mainly grammar, because their teachers themselves don't speak good English. So the children end up knowing more about English grammar than the British themselves, but are not able to speak very well. Simply because they never had a chance to practice.

And that is where the Toastmasters come in. There in the club, everyone can speak freely in front of the other members, nobody laughs but everyone cheers when people improve their skills. The nice thing is, that the roles within the club , apart from the president, treasurer, etc. which change on a yearly basis, change in every meeting. This means during one meeting your speech is evaluated and during the next meeting you might have to evaluate someone. Evaluation means to give positive feedback, but also pointing out areas of improvement.

During my five years with the Siam Toastmaster club I saw many members evolving from "almost not daring to speak English" to "freely speaking English in front of an audience". I have achieved the "Competent Toastmaster" or CTM level and I would have loved to further my knowledge in public speaking back in Germany, but so far time did not permit to join one of the many Toastmasters Cubs in Munich.