The Importance of Language

November 7, 2021 Comments off

by Frances Turley

Language is a distinct human activity. It is how we express what we think or feel—through sounds and/or symbols (spoken or written words), signs, posture, and gestures that convey a certain meaning. This enables us to share ideas, opinions, views and emotions with another person. 

An estimated 6,900 languages are spoken in the world, with English being the most widely spoken, followed by Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and French.

Some 370 million people have English as their mother tongue, and an estimated 1.3 billion speak it in some shape or form. Indeed, English has become the Lingua Franca throughout, with many multinationals using English as their official language.

But let’s face it: English is full of booby traps. Consider the word fly, which can mean an annoying insect, a means of travel or part of a man’s apparel.

It is difficult to determine the number of words in the English language as the Oxford dictionary gives 615,000 and Websters 450,000 words, but then the questions is what actually counts as a word.  The tech and scientific world add another 200,000 which are in common use today.   

English prides itself in its flexibility.  Take Latin as an example, a number of its verbs has 120 inflections, whereas English has never more than five e.g. see, sees, saw, seeing, seen, and often gets away with three e.g. hit, hits, hitting.     

Then there are the homonyms, words which are spelt the same but have a different meaning e.g. a bat, and to bat, a fair, as a noun, (fun fair) and fair, as an adjective, (to be fair), another is minute (on the clock) and minute (tiny).  Certain English words have become almost universal like weekend, hotel, bar, telephone, soda, cigarette, golf, tennis, stop, Ok to name just a few.

There are many varieties of word play in English (as there are in other languages too) puns, tongue twisters, anagrams, riddles to list but a few.

We ask ourselves, what is the future of the English language:  there are very powerful influences which are creeping into the “Queen’s English” through movies, television, radio and social media.   Somebody in England can watch and hear TV programmes from America and Australia and other media devices, which bring into people’s homes a variety of accents, different vocabulary and other linguistic influences which change the language considerably.  If that continues the English language will lose its richness and that would be a very sad loss.

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The Power of Constructive Feedback

September 8, 2021 Comments off

by Mila Myrsep

A few weeks ago, I met with a client to discuss a future project. He arrived at the meeting looking visibly upset, sharing that he had just clashed with his boss: “I hate the way he gives feedback. It’s either vague, reactive or expressed too late. And it always comes across as judgemental.” 

As I listened, two things came to mind: one, that it reminded me of my own experience with a former employer and, two, how much I have learned from Toastmasters about the value of giving and receiving constructive feedback.  

I have been a Toastmaster for seven years now. Truth be told, I didn’t intend to join. But our lovely Frances T. can be very persistent. She had been nagging me for years to “give it a try”. So, I finally caved and went along as her guest – and was blown away. The TME did an exceptional job, the speakers were excellent and the Table Topics a hoot.

Giving value

But what impressed me the most were the evaluators. I distinctly remember my genuine amazement at the uplifting, constructive and crystal-clear feedback they provided, wondering how on earth it was possible to provide high-quality evaluations with so little time to prepare. 

Needless to say, I wanted what they had, that is to say, the art of giving feedback. So, I signed up the very same evening and began my Toastmaster journey with that goal in mind.  

I am still fascinated by the skill behind good evaluation giving – and I am still learning. However, what my TM experience has taught me so far is this:   

  1. The word evaluation comes from the Latin word “valere”, which means to be of and attribute value. This is very different from the word judgement, which means the act of judging (others). 
  2. Evaluating is about offering honest, insightful and specific input that the recipient can act upon.
  3. A good evaluation heeds points 1. and 2. in equal measure by providing sincere and constructive feedback that is in the spirit of giving value, and never to pass judgement.        

With TM clubs in 143 countries, I love how this approach is being adopted in more than 16,600 clubs around the globe and across cultures. 

Taking the principle of constructive feedback to the workplace  

With our work and workplaces becoming increasingly more mobile, dispersed and culturally diverse, the need for interacting, sharing and valuing is greater than ever. One way to address this need is by nurturing a culture of constructive feedback. Other likely benefits are greater transparency, a more motivated workforce and a sense of inclusiveness.

As soppy as this may sound, I am convinced that by choosing to focus on giving value rather than passing judgement we will end up with much healthier work environments.

Are you up for the challenge?

So, dear fellow Toastmasters, are you up for the challenge of advocating the value of constructive evaluations at your workplace and, in so doing, putting an end to destructive judgmentalism? If so, I’d love to hear how you fare!

Categories: Uncategorized

Three ways Toastmasters helped to improve Mental Health

August 30, 2021 Comments off

by Umme Salma Babrawala

It was the march of 2020. Like always, there were continuous pings and discussions on many of my what’s app groups. However, this time the messages were no usual good morning or forwards but were messages of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. The newly discovered covid 19 viruses had not only engulfed and spread in the human body but had captured and destroyed the psychological health of many around the world. As governments across the world shut down their countries and states to protect their citizens the uncertainty and discomfort among people had affected their thoughts and emotions. Many experienced severe anxieties with the state of helplessness. Amid all this confusion and ambiguity what still continued to give support and stability in many Toastmasters’ life were their regular meeting. The only difference was that in-person meetings were now altered with the virtual ones. These virtual meetings lived up to the Toastmaster’s mission by providing a supportive and positive learning experience in which members were empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

With the virtual Toastmasters meeting in form, members could now not just connect with their club members but with members across the world. Toastmasters’ virtual meetings have done great service during the pandemic to improve its member’s mental health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. The virtual meetings gave a platform to be comfortable, share, and speak to other like-minded individuals. Like all the other members I used Toastmasters virtual meetings as a medium to connect and share with others. In my opinion Toastmasters program assists mental health in the following three ways.

1.Creating a sense of belonging: Belonging to a group and regularly interacting with people can extend your lifespan and strengthen your immune system. The Toastmasters engaging program and constant encouragement and support by members create a sense of belonging that helps in developing inner strength.

2. Providing social comfort: A research conducted by Linda Kime in 1998 revealed that the Toastmasters participants on average perceived highly statistically significant improvements on social comfort scales which includes comfort in public speaking, speaking in social and occupational situations, hearing positive feedback, and satisfaction with one’s social life. Providing social comfort increases one’s sense of fulfilment in overall life and thus enhances mental health.

3. Improving self-confidence:

As the meetings took place virtually it helped members to build their virtual confidence. Several pieces of research show that public speaking help to improve self-confidence. Toastmasters program offers them the opportunity to improve the fluency of their speeches and their confidence level in terms of body language, vocal variety, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Improved self-confidence helps in improved wellbeing.

As it is said belonging and connection are universal sources of true wellbeing. Toastmasters’ online and offline meetings ensured this along with giving individuals a sense of power and belief in themselves. Thus, improving their mental wellbeing.

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Promoting Toastmasters at the AIJA Congress in Zurich

August 30, 2021 Comments off

Alisa Burkhard (TM and AIJA member), Frances Turley, Aline Schillig and Mila Myrsep grabbed some precious stage time at this year’s AIJA Congress to rave about Toastmasters.

Other speakers included speech contest champion Melchior Glatthard from Bern and Celia Lim from Singapore.

A fun event and a chance to showcase the power of Toastmasters!

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President’s Distinguished Club Award time again!

June 20, 2019 Comments off

As has been the norm for many years, our club qualifies again for the highest club achievement award, the ribbon “President’s Distinguished Club”! Our collection of ribbons is growing! Congratulations and a big thank you to all members!

Our club is in a great shape and I am handing over the leadership to the new President for the term 2019-2020 Lars Malmström as of July 1st.

Teodora Rudolph, President term 2018-2019.

Categories: President, Ribbon

TMZ Blog Meeting of June 3rd 2019 by TS

June 16, 2019 Comments off

Of “old” and “new” officers

The meeting started with the election of the club officers for the new club year 1990-1920.
The sitting president, Teodora, presented the slate with the candidates and as there were no counter candidates and the required quorum of active members was present the new committee was voted in unanimously. The new officers are:

President Lars M.
Vice President Education (VPE) Aline S.
Vice President Membership (VPM) Virginie G.
Vice President Public Relations (VPPR) Stefan S.
Secretary Frances T.
Treasurer Thomas S.
Sergeant at Arms Wilko B.
Immediate Past President (IPP) Teodora R.

Thanks for a job well done to last years committee and best wishes for a successful club year to the new committee.

The meeting continued with the standard Toastmasters program with a.o. four speeches.
Frances presented an educational speech “Meeting roles and responsibilities” which was a good reminder for the new crew.

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Storytelling Workshop in German at the division contest

April 18, 2019 Comments off

The division contest which took place on April 13th offered also 2 speech-craft workshops. The one in English was given by our former member Manuel Gomez, the one in German was given by Teodora Rudolph: Storytelling / Hero’s Journey / Heldenreise.

It is always amazing to see what great stories people come up with on the fly when following a good algorithm!

Area E1 Contest March 2019 by Theo

March 27, 2019 Comments off


It was a beautiful day with the smell of spring in the air and some 30 toastmasters came to the traditional Spring Contests.
There were contests in English and German for Speech, Table Topics and Speech Evaluation.
The Zurich Club hosted the event with Zukhra at the Contest Chair doing most of the work assisted by Frances, Ramya and Roland and others.
Our own Mila took first place in the international Speech contest with an inspiring speech “Age matters”. Congratulations to Mila and let us give her a strong support at the Division level contest on April 13th.
The big winner of the contest was Christian Eggenberger of the Rhetorik Club Winterthur; Christian took the first place in the following 3 contests:
– English Evaluation Contest
– English Table Topics
– German Table Topics (Stegreif)
Congratulations, Christian, I always enjoy your enthusiasm and engagement.
I specially want to mention the challenging and fun English Table Topic (by Ramya): “ You are Prince Charles of Britain and launch a new men’s perfume”.
It was a successful event and I look forward to the next level contest on April 13th.

The participants in the Area E1 contestTM contest March 2019 4

The participants in the International Speech contest

TMcontest march 2019 2


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March 1, 2019 Comments off

COMPETITION EVENING                                                         by TS

Meeting of February 25 2019

It was the meeting for the club level competitions in the disciplines: Speech-Evaluation, Table Topics and Speech.
For the Speech-Evaluation the Target-Speech was presented by Benjamin, from our sister (daughter?) club Top Notch Toastmasters. His topic: “Is Technology good for the world?”
Five evaluators: Teodora, Mila, Stefan, Wilko and Lars competed.
Table Topics Master, Ramya’s question was: “You are Melania and you tell your husband Donald to get rid of his irritating habits.” The answers brought some laughter in an otherwise serious evening.
Stefan, Wilko, Aline, Lars and Mila entered the speech contest with speeches on
TM favourite topics about visions and dreams that we should have and pursue.
The winners were: Lars for Evaluation and Table Topics and Mila for the best speech.
Lars and Mila will compete at the area contests on March 23rd , don’t miss it!
Next meeting March 11, 2019.

Last thought: How I miss the humorous speech contest from yonder days!

Pictures of the attendees and the competitors.


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February Blossom by Theo

February 17, 2019 Comments off

Meeting of February 11, 2019

It was a cold, windy and snowy Monday evening in February when 20+ Toastmasters, including four guests, met at the Werdguet restaurant for an evening of public speaking practice and fun. Frances, the TME, lead us through the meeting with a full TM program with five (!) speeches/evaluations. The word of the day “blossom” was a good motivational motto.
Max started the speeches and introduced us to “sequential experimental design” and new developments in statistics. Very interesting and challenging: well done, Max.
Maria found the inspiration for her speech during a walk along the lake and came to thinking and speaking about the different styles of leadership: autocratic, laissez-fare and democratic.
Aisling had also been walking but in some else’s shoes and she recommended us to be open for other people’s views and to feel good about yourself.
Stefan philosophised about how love, hate and boredom can become a habit.
Zurri told us the horror story of her first trial at paragliding and how she survived the crash landing because she did not panic.
Five very different but all very interesting speeches; Aisling was voted “best speaker”
Aline’s table topics was inspired by last weeks Superbowl event or rather by the TV- commercials during the break. Her “victims” were to make commercials for a.o. Ajax cleaner, skin lotion or ID-cards. Lars was voted the best TT speaker.
Prospective new member Alicia volunteered for ah- and vote counting and Mila was voted the best evaluator.
All in all a very pleasant meeting and my special compliments to Frances for a well run meeting and finishing in time. It was a good demonstration of Toastmaster skills in practice.

PS: next meeting Feb. 25, Club contests…don’t miss it!

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