Category Archives: Grammarian

Spicing Up The Grammarian’s Role

The Grammarian is meant to help all club members improve their grammar and vocabulary by introducing new words to meeting participants and monitor language and grammar usage.

The Tradition

Piggy BankIn the Madrid Toastmasters Club, the tradition is to have the Grammarian give a “word of the day”, give a definition and a couple of examples hoping that speakers will use it during the meeting. Every time they do, they’ll get credit. On the other hand, every time they use a filler word, they will be charged €0.10. At the end of the meeting the Grammarian gives a report and collects the money which will be donated to

Last time I attended a meeting, I decided to take on the Grammarian’s role, but I decided to stray away from my club’s tradition and add a little bit of spice.

Cause for Concern: Connectors are not filler words

In the last few meetings I have attended I noticed not only that the “filler versus word of the day” challenge had been mastered by most club members, but also that there was an alarming shortage in the use of connectors and that to me is a cause for concern.

Connectors are the words that build the skeleton of your speech, whether prepared or improvised. They are the linking words that show the relationship between two sentences or ideas. If you don’t have enough connectors, the audience cannot follow your line of thought and are left wondering what you really meant. Sometimes in the meetings I have noticed that the speakers avoid connectors such as so, like, or well because they are afraid of being marked down for fillers, which should not be the case if they are being used as connectors.

So let’s make a quick clarification: a filler is an utterance or word that adds no meaning. They mostly buy you time to think, but by repeating them you sometimes create repetitive patterns that irritate your listeners.

Connectors, on the other hand, are crucial. They tell your audience what you are thinking and allow them to follow you no matter where you go.

So, if you use “so” like I just did to mean “therefore” that is not a filler but a crucial connector.

Some commonly used connectors are: Because, however, if, or, so and, then, like.

After this lengthy explanation, I asked club members to give me some connectors of their own, and they came up with examples such as:

Since, despite, nevertheless, on the other hand, such as, whether, not only… but also, in spite of, consequently, etc.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Since members and guests seemed interested on the issue at hand, I told them I was going to give them an extra challenge. In addition to the traditional credit versus debit of fillers and word of the day, I would give them extra credit if I heard a deliberate use of appropriate connectors. The challenge was accepted!

Besides my usual tasks, I wrote down every connector the speakers used and I gave them a brief result at the end. In my report I named one of our speakers the “Champion of Connectors” of the evening, and this was very positive for him because he was feeling quite discouraged after forgetting a chunk of his speech. He came to me to thank me for the comment, and later other members told me to it had been a positive experience for him and for them, because I had brought something new to their attention.

In reality, the good use of connectors is dealt with in Speech 2 of the Competent Communicator Manual. Moreover, it is a good way for non-native speakers to significantly improve their command of the language and the quality of their speech.

I encourage club members of the Madrid Toastmasters Club and beyond, to take advantage of this educational setting to really try to add value to the experience by finding new challenges to enhance the use of language during meetings. You will have fun and your fellow members will appreciate it.

Aline Casanova is a member of Madrid Toastmasters sin 2009. She is currently a freelance conference interpreter for the United Nations Office in Geneva, in addition to working as a specialized translator and public speaking coach.

Speak With Confidence

Despite the Real Madrid match, a multitude of members including a decent amount of guest came out to witness Ola, Jack and Juliet deliver their icebreaker and 7th speeches respectively.

The Toastmaster of the evening, Luciana, along with the time keeper Villy and grammarian Rose ensured that the meeting run smoothly.

IMG_2738First to the stage was Ola who dazzled the audience with her flawless movements and expressive hand gestures as she spoke about her life. For her first ever speech, she did well taking control of the stage. Her fairy tale style speech, focused on abandoning her native land Poland at the age of  23 years,  to begin a new life in sunny Spain. As an introvert, she declared that the move had made her more lively and open. Although it was her Icebreaker speech, Ola exhibited vital public speaking skills such as maintaining eye contact with audience, and she was even able to use humour in her speech.

It was no fairy tale speech with Jack. He was very expressive about the things he likes, thanks to the Beatles vinyl, Atletico de Madrid jersey and a family portrait he had brought along to back up his case.

Any toastmaster member would attest that delivering your Icebreaker speech can be nerve-wracking but not Jack, he kept his cool, was calm and collected and owned the stage. His speech had a clear structure and  a good conclusion.

IMG_2737Juliet started her speech with a question which immediately captured the audience’s attention. Her chosen subject about beauty touched the audience heart. Thanks to her personal anecdotes, Juliet made her speech a personal one. Also the use of visual aids helped to follow and understand her speech. Juliet appeared natural on stage and spoke with a clear loud voice backed with superb movements.

After the prepared speeches, it was time for the impromptu speeches which was well thought and wonderfully executed by the Table Topic Master Masha.

Lewis, Jesus, Nacho, and Jim were the fortunate ones to participate in the Table Topics, they were to guess the person behind a secret and also elaborate more on that secret.

All in all it was a it a great meeting, and most importantly we learned some dark secrets about some members.

Written by Christian

Any wordmonger in the room?

IMG_2027On Wednesday 16th we gathered at Anthony’s Place to see three of our members, Mabel, Ana and Alberto, demonstrate how the objectives of their respective speeches could be achieved.

The meeting began with the introduction of our guests. Jaime, a member of Excelencia Toastmasters club. Carla and Sam, both of them English teachers. Blanca, whose mother had recommended her to visit a Toastmaster meeting. And a girl, friend of our fellow member Masha, from Moldova.

Raquel, our Toastmaster of the Day, told us about the Toastmasters International new app. Before the meeting, she had contacted all the participants to ask them for the app they found most useful. That is how we learnt that the most useful app for Quyen, who was filling the role of grammarian, is Waze. She introduced wordmonger as the word of the day. I have to say, few of the participants found a challenge to use it correctly. Additionally, we learnt that Iván, our timekeeper of the day, most useful app is Fintonic.

IMG_2032Before the speeches started, Eric used the thought of the day section to tell us about the most dangerous word in the world: no. And how brain reacts to negative idea. Great start.

Mabel, whose favorite app is Runkeeper, delivered the speech “Superheroes”. After a moment of silence, she confessed she had superpowers. She used her movements, gestures and facial expressions to convince us that we could also be Superheroes. We just need to master the “Champion Position”. Those that were not able to make it, missed a great opportunity to be a more powerful individual.

Ana, who calls herself a Whatsapp addict, become a Competent Communicator after successfully completing project #10 of the manual. Her speech “Follow your hunches” was an inspiring tour of her life and why is important to act on our intuitions. Ana cleverly used well recognized songs to lead the audience through a self-discovery journey.

IMG_2042Alberto, who picked e-Park as his most useful app, completed the first project of the Storytelling manual by delivering the speech “The Pied Piper”. He started asking us to close our eyes and imagine that we were in bed. That peaceful moment was quickly left behind when he introduced one of the main characters in the story, rats. The plot was an intelligent reinterpretation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin with a tougher end.

Strangely enough, only one app was chosen by more than one person. Teresa and Luis, who were both evaluators, chose the app that informs about public transportation in Madrid. Both of them together with Carlos, Ana and Jim gave constructive feedback to all the meeting participants aiming to improve their skills. Ana, our VP of PR, confessed Raquel she doesn’t let Twitter rest.

IMG_2048Maria, as the table topic master, ask some “victims” to deliver an elevator speech to a capital investor while waiting in line at a coffee shop. The pre-set business ideas run from a matchmaking service for dogs to auction-based restaurants. I have to say all the participants, Jack, Navinya, Santi, Juliet and Rose, achieved their mission

I almost forgot to mention that Jim, our club founder, mentioned that Alberto’s speech reminded him of the book “A nation of sheep” by William J Lederer. I’m sure it is a worthwhile reading.

Written by Javier.

Inner Beauty

The Toastmaster of the day role requires various skills such as organisation, leadership and quick thinking skills. Marina, who played this role exhibited all of these skills. Ola performed her first role as the grammarian and she appeared natural, Ana also did a professional job as the timekeeper of the evening.
Just before the speakers, David gave an interesting thought as to why men and women wear buttons on different sides their clothes.
IMG_6030In the first speech of the evening, Juliet did not fail to impress. She was confident and natural as ever. The gist of her speech was around inner beauty. Juliet spoke with ease and took charge of the stage as she spoke about looking beyond appearance. After using some anecdotes to add a personal touch, she ended her speech by ordering the audience to hug each other. On a cold evening like it was, a hug was very much needed indeed!
IMG_6032Second to the stage was Maria with a very thoroughly researched speech about the different parts of the brain and their functionalities. Her use of visual aid help the audience to not only understand but also visualise the part of the brain being talked about. If there is one take home lesson from Maria’s speech, it was her advice on meditation and also focusing on activities with full attention. Alberto her evaluator was pleased with the speech and suggested pauses during her next speech for the audience’s brain to better absorb the information.
Mabel chose to centre her fourth speech on focusing on yourself with the title; “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. She did something clever, instead of the old saying; “Treats others how you would like to be treated” Mabel preached about “Treat yourself how you would like to be treated”. She used effective body language and anecdotes to present her point.
IMG_6036On the next part of the meeting, Table Topic Master Jane, was keen enough to bring some books along for Manulo, John, Ana, Christian and Jonas to give an impromptu speech about why they should not be lent the books. It was amusing to witness the quick thinking skills of the participants. Table topics are always the amusement point of every Toastmaster’s meeting and this was no different.

Written By Christian

Wise Recommendations

We enjoyed a lot during our last Club meeting: the Toastmaster of the evening and the supporting roles worked hard, the speakers were amazing, the Table Topics participants revealed hidden aspects about themselves… but the evaluators, they all were awesome gave us lots of wise and useful recommendations. We must put all of them into practice!!

We all know that Jesús is the Sergeant At Arms of Toastmasters Madrid, but he was not able to attend our meeting on 21st of October. Therefore, Masha opened the meeting and introduced the Toastmaster of the Day: Wanda.

Wanda chose Halloween as the topic of the day. How many of us do celebrate Halloween? Where does this tradition come from? Are we buying pumpkins instead of “buñuelos”? asked Wanda at the beginning of the meeting.

Before the prepared speeches, we discovered how thoroughly Iván and Maravillas had prepared their roles as Grammarian and Timekeeper:

  • Ivan’s explanation of his role was very professional. We will never forget that the choice of SASSY as word of the day was displayed with several excerpts from Classic Literature.
  • Maravillas was Timekeeper for the first time. She was very strict with the use of time and didn´t hesitate to start clapping when some participants went overtime.

All of us are happy when a recent member delivers her Icebreaker. It is the first step for becoming CC. And on 21st of October, Ana Belén introduced herself as a Toastmaster. Thanks to Ana Belén, we remembered that there were frontiers between Spain and Portugal not a long time ago. All the times she crossed the Spain-Portugal border during her childhood made a great impact on her.

“Is it about time to move on?” was the question that Javier asked to us when starting the second speech of the evening. The objective of his third project was to “get to the point”, to be extremely clear, and he was. We will never forget Javier’s explanation of many employees´ feelings after being a long time without a promotion: “I quit some time ago, but I forgot to tell it”.

Marina was the third speaker of the day. Her evaluator, Eric pointed out that the 5th speech of the Competent Communicator manual is very important, because the speaker has to use her entire body in order to communicate. She spoke about good manners around the table, how she learnt them thanks to her mother, and how everybody should behave during business meals.


All the evaluators (Ana, Pedro and Eric) praised speakers, remarked their great job and gave wise and useful recommendations that all of us should learn too: breathe more, choose a specific topic, impersonate characters, and be sure all the audience is watching.

If you have ever attended a Toastmasters Madrid meeting, you know that there is something very important after the prepared speeches: Table Topics!!!

Maria was Table Topics Master and charged her victims of stealing, reckless driving, or committing environmental crimes. Jonas, Mabel, Christian, Julian, and Masha had the chance to defend themselves in front of the Toastmasters Madrid Jury, but Judge Maria took the Club gavel and found all of them guilty.

Table Topics have an Evaluator too: Teresa, who was shocked by the amount of criminals in our club. She gave useful tips to all of them in order to invent a better alibi next time.

After the Grammarian and Timekeeper reports, Wanda, the Toastmaster of the Day, introduced the last role: General Evaluator, who evaluates the meeting as a whole and gives wise pieces of advice to improve our events.

Wow, lots of things to learn from Juliet’s evaluation. Some of them that we should never forget are:

  • Having a backup or second Sergeant at Arms in case Jesús Clemente cannot attend again.
  • Having plenty of pens and evaluation sheets for crowded meeting.
  • Welcoming the guests (11 during our last meeting) and explaining them what is happening during the meeting. Juliet noticed how all the members tended to sit close to each other, without mixing in with the guests.
  • Speak loud and clear when somebody is having dinner in the same room!!

Written by Raquel