JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In churches and libraries around the Jacksonville area, one woman is breaking down communication barriers through the First Coast Multilingual Toastmasters Club.
Maribel Hernandez comes from a Spanish-speaking family, her parents from Puerto Rico.
“My problem is that I speak too much, and I’m Latin so when I get nervous, I speak too fast, and a lot of times, I was just not taken seriously," said Maribel Hernandez, founder of the First Coast Multilingual Toastmasters Club.
Hernandez saw first-hand how people with broken English can be perceived negatively.
“If you don’t speak English effectively, it’s very difficult to be successful and your options are limited in terms of things that you can do from a career perspective," said Hernandez. “They automatically assume that if you do not speak English perfectly that you must not be intelligent or business-minded or someone they want to do business with and we're here to change that."
To improve her own speaking, Hernandez joined Toastmasters International, a nonprofit where members work on public speaking and leadership skills.
She soon formed the First Coast Multilingual Toastmasters Club, tailored specifically to members whose second language is English. Meetings take place twice a month. Members give speeches, lead group discussions, and share communication tips.
“Gives us another area to allow people to continue to grow not just in their speaking ability to build confidence in a non-judgmental friendly atmosphere but it also allows them the opportunity to develop leadership skills," said John Lasch, Toastmasters Division F Director.
Hernandez says the club has helped her professionally with job interviews and presentations but also her everyday communication has improved.
“We have done a great job with individuals from different countries that really want to master the English language while they’re also working to become leaders and build that confidence that they need to be able to get their message across in a way that’s understood, excepted and ultimately successful mutually," said Hernandez.
The club is tailored to those where English might not be your first language and is open to all backgrounds. Meetings are twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday at Deermeadows Church and are open to the public.