|▲ Toastmasters members posing for a picture at the last large scale face-to-face meeting before COVID-19 intensified last year|
These days, speaking English fluently has become important to undergraduates. The capacity, however, is not easy to achieve. This article introduces JNU Toastmasters, which is an English speech club to improve English speaking skills with international people at Chonnam National University (CNU).
JNU Toastmasters, which was established in 2008, aims to improve speech capacity. The name ’toastmasters’ literally indicates the people who toast, and Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that has a seventy-year history. The club’s main activity is a weekly meeting held by volunteers. Participants have different roles such as the ‘Toastmaster’ which means the moderator, the ‘Wordmaster’ who introduces new kinds of words or idioms, a General Evaluator, and Speakers. Since last year, these members have had non-contact meetings, announcements and programs using Zoom. Kim Ye-seong (Graduate, Dept. of Civil Engineering) said, “A Face to face meeting has its own strength. But I think non-contact meetings provide a new opportunity to meet a wide range of people regardless of their region and even their country. We try to utilize that advantage by inviting members who live far away in places such as India or Seoul.”
Apart from the main activity, the club hosts several events including contests and social parties. The president of JNU Toastmasters Kim Seung-tae (Senior, Dept. of Electrical Engineering, Dongshin University) said, “Last year, we held a ‘Table Topic Contest’ with the Gwangju Toastmasters’ executive from the Gwangju International Center. I was one of the judges in the final, and I was very impressed since every participant had excellent speech skills. It was a good chance to evaluate high quality speech. Even though the social meetings of the club are limited now due to COVID-19, we will be able to get some outgoing experiences because of those activities.”
|▲ Toastmasters members posing for a photo at the year-end party in 2018|
Unlike other clubs at CNU, Toastmasters contains various kinds of members including university graduates, students from other universities and office workers regardless of their nationality. Most Korean members are CNU students, but it is open to all interested people. Even the club president is from another university. Vice President, Park Su-bin (Junior, Dept. of Forest Resources) said, “After I joined this club, it was impressive that people from different backgrounds, for example diverse ages, occupations and nationalities tried to communicate in one language, English. It reminds me that even Gwangju itself can be a ‘forum’ to interact with foreigners.”
Ye-seong mentioned that JNU Toastmasters is really open to beginners who do not speak English well. “Since the existing members tried to give me confidence by welcoming me and giving me useful feedback, I improved my speech ability and I participate in the meetings a lot now. I know making a speech in front of many people is hard, but attempting to step up will help you to grow.” He added that there are programs for high-level English speakers such as ‘Pathway’ so feel free to join the club whether your English speech skills are good or bad.
JNU Toastmasters have a meeting every Tuesday at 7:30 through Zoom. If you are interested in this club, search ‘jnu_toastmasters’ on Instagram. It is a perfect club for people who want to develop English speech skills while meeting a variety of people.
By Jo Ye-rin, Student Editor
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