Debating in French a very different experience

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Debating in French a very different experience

Jacqueline Barr

The room was silent.  Spectators of the debate shifted in their chairs quietly as the two teams discussed the prompt with their teammates. Discussion time was ended by the official timer and teammate Karolina Plonowska rose to speak. She delivered her opening statement smoothly and then paused, not only searching for the right word, but the right word in French.

The room was silent.  Spectators of the debate shifted in their chairs quietly as the two teams discussed the prompt with their teammates. Discussion time was ended by the official timer and teammate Karolina Plonowska rose to speak. She delivered her opening statement smoothly and then paused, not only searching for the right word, but the right word in French.

On March 22, students from MVHS competed in the staff room against the German International School in a debate that sounded a little different than usual. Instead of the language students are accustomed to hearing at school — English, the debate was entirely spoken in French.

The debate team consisted of sophomore Stephanie Fischer and seniors Tarun Galagali, Michael Sushkov, Prashanth Vijay, Karolina Plonowska, and Kunal Bhan.

It was the second debate hosted by Bay Area French Public Forum, an offshoot of FHS founded by Galagali.

 
The competition was approximately an hour long and consisted of three prompts. It opened with the question: "Do students deserve freedom?"

Points were made by each side as the students argued the pros and cons of the issue. MVHS brought up the assertion that students must remain protected until they are through school. GIS argued the counter saying that students must be exposed to negative things such as drugs in order to gain experience in dealing with those types of issues.The debate was a completely new experience for the opposing team as well as some members of the MVHS team.

"It was really hard to communicate ideas," senior Tanja Mehlo from GIS said.

Students at the German International School have been learning French for a longer time span but less consistently. GIS students take French only once a week but have been enrolled in French since around 6th grade while French 5 students have class four days a week.

The difference in the amount of practice was evident between the two teams.  "We noticed that the level of speech was very different between us and them." Mehlo said.

The almost fluent speech of the debaters was only interrupted by a few interspersed "ums" as students searched for the proper wording.
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Although students found it more difficult to converse in French, many students enjoyed the change.

"Speaking in a different language is sometimes very freeing because there are no boundaries already set in place," French teacher and event co-mediator Lise Gabet said.

Yang, who competed in October’s debate, agrees. "Its exciting to speak in a different language. I [already have] more confidence because [of] the fact that you can speak another language. So, debating comes naturally."

As a win for MVHS ended the debate, Galagali reached out to the audience and encouraged younger students taking French to continue the debates in what could potentially become a tradition.

 
 

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