Toastmasters is the Starbucks of speaking in English because of its 14,500 clubs, in 130 countries, each dedicated to the individual. The all volunteer, non-profit membership, helps their fellow members develop self-confidence through improved communication and leadership skills. Started 90 years ago in a Santa Ana, California YMCA,
Toastmasters International came to China in 1999 and today has more than 200 clubs and 5,000 members in Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China. The Middle Kingdom Toastmasters club, that meets every Monday evening, 7-9pm at the Sofitel, was the first in Zhengzhou. Since that beginning in 2007, two more clubs have been added in Zhengzhou; On The Way Toastmasters, meeting every Friday evening at the English Way language training center in the Manhattan shopping center; and Yellow River on Thursday nights across from the East Gate of Zhengzhou University's main campus.
Toastmasters membership in China has 95/5 ratio of Nationals to Foreigners. To get the most out of the experience, a 5.5 IELTS proficiency is recommended. Because Toastmasters is a structured, self-directed, adult (over 18) environment, to practice speaking in public, and not an English corner or training school, it offers two alternative programs. One for teenagers is called YLP, or Youth Leadership Program and the second, known as Speechcraft is offered for adults who are beginning or would like to refresh their English speaking skills. A third Toastmasters International program, Gavel Clubs, is dedicated to establishing English speaking clubs for Middle schools students.
Toastmasters membership is both popular and cheap the world over. For example, there are 120 McDonalds locations in Singapore and 200 Toastmasters clubs, offerring communications practice in Maylay, Hindi, Mandarin, as well as English. The minimum monthly dues in North America is $9. Two thirds of the money goes to Toastmasters International to support the operations of the multi-national organization, including the publication of the monthly Toastmaster magazine, received by each of its 300,000 members.
YLP is an eight session workshop, conducted by an adult volunteer Toastmasters club member at a middle school to demonstrate the benefits of the Toastmasters membership. The intent is to create sufficient interest among students, faculty and administration to form their own student run Gavel club. These clubs are very popular with youth in the US that are home-schooled or in in 4H, Scouts and church groups.
For more information about Toastmasters in China and the rest of the world, visit www.toastmasters.org.