by Megan K. Whitney
It was a cold winter Saturday. I climbed to the third floor of Founder’s Hall at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University, knocked on the door of the wrong classroom (and thought “Dónde estoy?” – “Where am I?”) and eventually arrived at my destination; the Que Pasa Toastmasters Club meeting. I sat in the back of the room and heard evaluations in Spanish and in English. I listened intently and furiously translated the Spanish words I knew to English in my head as if I were dancing a fast tempo salsa.
As a guest, it was my turn to introduce myself and I began speaking in what Spanish I recalled. I saw smiling faces around the room, heads nodding as I thought for words, and was encouraged when I fumbled. Talk about making someone feel welcome!
At Que Pasa, it does not matter what your native language is. Many people were from Spanish speaking countries and wanted to improve their English, others were from English speaking countries who studied, were currently studying, or were fluent in Spanish, and one person’s native language was neither English nor Spanish yet they were at Que Pasa to see if it would help them with both languages. The depth and diversity of the members and guests was electrifying – a true example of cultures melding and genuine inclusiveness.
I have been a Toastmaster since November 2013. During this time, I’ve listened to both “Ice Breaker” speeches, in the middle of the foundational ten-speech track—in which I saw new members hit their stride. I’ve also heard advanced speeches, and now speeches in another language. There is a commonality across all of these experiences – speakers are challenging themselves to step outside their comfort zone, to ask for feedback to help them grow, and sharing personal stories that resonate with others in the room striking a different chord for each person.
Fellow toastmasters, what language do you speak? Qué idioma hablas? Do you want to learn Spanish, improve your Spanish/English, and help others seeking the same? Then go now– ve ahora – “See for yourself.”
Note: The January edition of Toastmasters Magazine includes an article by Que Pasa member Clelia Ayala (ACB), who also serves as Area 22 Director in Division B of District 27. To learn more about Que Pasa read the January edition of Toastmasters Magazine!
Megan Whitney (CC/CL) is an editor for the District 27 Public Relations team and is the past Vice President of Education and current Treasurer for Challenger Toastmasters, which meets at Asahi Restaurant in Courthouse Plaza (2500 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite G), Arlington, Va., at 7 PM on the first and third Tuesday of the month.