I have taught, and will be teaching from September 14th, a class in Debate in English. My experiences with the class last semester have led me to believe that using debate with a class of students who are speakers of English as a second or foreign language is nearly impossible, even with a group of enthusiastic, adult, advanced speakers. It was like pulling teeth to get them to say much, and when they said anything, for which I was thankful, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that what they had said was off topic, immaterial, spurious, incorrect, which was often. I will have to offer much more structure in this class from next month.
Today I worked with a group of teachers from various junior and senior high schools around who are trying to prepare students to compete in Japanese debate events. It was a great experience for me, because I got a chance to debate in Japanese, something I’ve never done before. I could get out what I wanted to say, and I don’t think it was off topic or anything, but I was surprised by how much better Japanese people’s language skills are than mine. Wow, they could speak really well. Of course their skills are going to be better than mine, but today, I got a chance to experience just how much better they were. My understanding of the process and framework for debate are at least as good as the other participants’. So in that we were at least equal. But as for language… they were really smooth. I was really choppy and lacked finesse. Great experience.