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I had a chance to mentor eight students of the University of Manitoba drawn from Turkey, South Korea, China, Brazil, Pakistan on public speaking over a six-session program called ‘Speech Craft’ under the auspices of Assiniboine #419 Toastmasters club. This blog is like a general evaluation with the objective of connecting with all of them and being able to help out further.

It was fun to interact with them all.  They had diverse skills in meditation, long-distance running, video games, horror movies, visual art and Feng Shui and liked to talk about them all.

How would a South Korean youngster accept a drink from an older man? He would accept with both hands and drink it standing sideways and partially covering the glass with one palm.

What did the word meditation mean to Fernando? He would ‘create the day’ in his mind while still in bed before getting up.

Haiku, a Chinese girl narrated her difficulties in communication. At Tim Horton’s she ran into a host who said ‘pardon-me’ again and again, until she actually said ‘a little bit’ much to her delight.

The girl from Turkey, Deniz, had a Valentine’s day telephone call from her mom, and she wondered if it is a good idea to change the idea of Valentines day to just a family day.

The Pakistani boy, Norman, missed the mango-eating festivals, kite flying and night caps of Lahore and adored cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan as his super hero.

What Julia, one of the mentors like me, found out was that Deniz had no clue what John Lennon’s people song was. The coordinator, Yvonne joked, ” She is too young,” to which Julia responded with another song suggestion, namely, “girls want to have fun”, which again failed to evoke a response of familiarity. Julia’s unfamiliarity with the Middle Eastern theocratic societies even surpassed Deniz’s ignorance of the songs as she remarked: “too old?”

Now let me conclude with my general points of growth with some wisdom of hindsight.  I remember as a new Toastmaster, I found Rob’s frank remarks that he faced difficulties with my accent, pronunciation and speed of talking rather bittersweet. Now looking back, I would commend him for mentioning that, so I was able to start working on those points. I am being a Rob here: try as I might, I was unable to understand much of what the speakers said.  All of them would do well to practice voice training and learn to speak clearly.

None of them betrayed any sense of stage fright and everyone had excellent stage presence, both commendable achievements.  Kudos to each participant for that. Let me wish everyone all success.

I would hope to hear from the participants and other mentors. Other readers are welcome to share their observations or their similar experiences too.

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