With nearly 850 bilingual or multilingual Toastmasters clubs worldwide, chances are someone is giving a humorous speech in their non-native language right now. A member in Spain could be testing out their jokes in German, while someone in Brazil is practicing their punchlines in French.
If you want to learn how to incorporate humor into your speech in a language other than English, then you’re in luck! Toastmasters’ Engaging Humor path—the 11th path in the Pathways learning experience—is now available in Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese. The path’s projects, which include titles such as “Know Your Sense of Humor” and “The Power of Humor in an Impromptu Speech,” offer strategies on writing humorous speeches, using effective timing and pacing, crafting strong openings, and even how to cope when your jokes are not well received.
Presenting a humor-filled speech in another language is just one piece of the puzzle; knowing the context behind the humor is equally important, according to cross-cultural business expert Dean Foster. He stresses the crucial role culture plays in determining what’s funny—and what is not. While laughter may be a universal language, humor doesn’t always translate. No matter what language you speak, Foster suggests that you ensure your jokes and physical humor are appropriate for audiences of all cultures.
“As presenters, we can learn to be effective in selling a joke or funny story. But no amount of skill will ensure the success of a joke or humorous anecdote if the content and style are culturally inappropriate,” says Foster.
Comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas recommends testing your humorous speeches on a variety of people first.
“The most important thing you can do is find people you can trust and ask their opinion if you’re worried your material might offend. Surround yourself with friends of other races, cultures and beliefs,” says Pappas, a speaker at the 2019 Toastmasters International Convention. “The more diverse your inner circle becomes, the less likely you’ll be to offend a wide audience. Diversity not only informs your comedy, it helps you better understand the world around you.”
Now is the perfect time to brush up on your comedic skills in your native tongue or in a new language. With the Engaging Humor path offered in eight additional languages, there is an opportunity for personal and professional growth; plus, it’s a great excuse to develop your confidence and better connect with your audience. To get started on this path online, visit the Pathways webpage on the Toastmasters International website.
Shannon Dewey is the digital content editor for Toastmaster magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.