When learning a new language, understanding the vocabulary and grammar and being able to converse with the teacher is not enough. To be fluent, you have to be able to communicate clearly with others and be able to speak effectively in many different settings. While a standard language school or language course may give you the first set of skills, you need real-life experiences to become an effective communicator in your new language.

Toastmasters Clubs are an excellent place to gain this experience. The worldwide network of communication clubs helps members to develop their communication, presentation and leadership skills in an informal setting. Two years ago, I joined a local Toastmaster's Club (Talk for Success Toastmaster's Club at 38 West Pender Street.)  

Originally I joined as I believed my presence as a native speaker of English would allow the many members who spoke English as a second language to have more opportunities to interact and practice their language skills. 

I was often humbled by some very engaging and moving speeches that were delivered by members who did not speak English as their first language. 

Although a native speaker, I also discovered I still had much to learn. By attending regular meetings, my confidence in public speaking grew as a developed new communication techniques to help me connect with an audience.

Like many areas of life, the more you experiment with different techniques, the more well-rounded and better your skills will become.

The Talk for Success Toastmaster's Club meets every Wednesday at 12 noon at 38 West Pender Street in Vancouver, BC and new members are always welcome.

You can also search for clubs in and around Metro Vancouver by visiting www.toastmasters.org

Story by Jeff Madigan, Director of Programs at L2 Accent Reduction Centre in Vancouver.