The language of arguing: Spanish Honors Society hosts their first all-Spanish debate

Debates allow members to increase Spanish skills in a variety of ways


Sophomores Claudia Maldonado and Siddhant Patel present their argument to the rest of the Spanish Honors Society. Photo by Brandon Ng.

Brandon Ng and Roshan Fernandez

Spanish Honors Society held their first debate of the year entirely in Spanish in order to improve members’ language fluency and overall speaking ability. By arguing with an opposing team, members’ also had the opportunity to boost their comfort level in speaking Spanish around one another.

While the discussion topics were straightforward, like “cats vs. dogs” or “flying vs. invisibility,” the preparation beforehand kept the arguments interesting and complex. The members, were split into two teams and given two minutes to build a case for their side. Afterwards, each team went up to present an argument to the opposing team and the club officers, who acted as judges.

After watching both debates on Feb. 6, vice president and senior Nandini Sarkar thought they went well, especially considering the smaller size of the club. With more time to get to know a smaller number of people, she believes the members grew comfortable with one another quickly and are now able to practice Spanish without being worried about making errors.

“We have people from different grade levels, mostly juniors and seniors, so some of them didn’t know each other,” Sarkar said. “It was weird talking to a person you don’t know in a language that you’re not comfortable with. But all of the members know each other pretty well now, so they [have] an easier time talking to each other.”

Sarkar also notes that  the presentation aspect of the debate prevented groups from conducting small group conversations in English instead of Spanish. Senior Daniel Maldonado agrees, stating that it was easier for members to speak up during the debate.

“It was kind of difficult to get people to really communicate,” Daniel said. “Some people are shy about their Spanish skills. [By] having a debate, you get more people involved and talking. And it’s not just like one person reaching out for the group. Everyone in a group is coming up with ideas and then presenting them together.”

Daniel’s sister, sophomore Claudia Maldonado also found the debates useful because she could practice her Spanish outside of class. She saw it as not only an opportunity for herself, but also an opportunity for Spanish speakers of all levels to communicate effectively.

“It’s simple for non-native speakers and native speakers to get together,” Claudia said. “You get the chance to converse with not only people who are also taking Spanish, but people who have a little bit more information. Getting [us] to talk to each other on what we know does provide a lot of information for the other party.”

While the debates require members to stand up and communicate, Sarkar believes the nature of the Spanish Honors Society at MVHS also helps members grow closer to one another. The debates initiated conversation between the members, instead of solely having the officers speaking directly to the members of the club. It allowed everyone to improve their Spanish skills, and was an overall success according to the club’s officers — it showcased how far members had come since the start of the year.  

“One of the things that our club wants to do is increase our members’ comprehension of the Spanish language. One way of doing it would be to have our members interacting with each other…  [but] a lot of them can do [that] in English,” Sarkar said. “The debates were a way for them to explore some topics that they don’t usually talk about, and then interact with each other, instead of just having to listen to the officials of the club.”