The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

¡Hola y Bienvenido, Spanish Debate!

Printed with permission of Alba Martinez Angoitia

The Spanish Language Debate Society (SLDS), one of the many speaking unions at Colgate University, is a community of both native Spanish speakers and those looking to improve their Spanish language skills. 

Junior and Vice-President of SLDS, Alba Martinez Angoitia, is from Spain, and Spanish was her first language.

“I wanted to be part of a community that would also be comfortable speaking Spanish,” Martinez Angoitia said.“Ultimately, I joined because I felt that it would help me improve in different ways my understanding of the world.” 

Though most are fluent Spanish speakers, quite a few members join SLDS as a way to practice their Spanish. Senior Gretchen Mueller joined for that reason, as Spanish is her second language. Now, she serves as treasurer of the club.

Mueller spoke to the fact that most members are native Spanish speakers, emphasizing that it should not discourage anyone from joining the club.

“It may seem intimidating, but everyone has always been so kind and supportive,” Mueller said.  

“Speaking for seven minutes while fielding questions in my second language to fluent speakers is always very daunting and makes me very nervous, but they are extremely encouraging and genuinely proud of me after I finish speaking,” Mueller said. “The club forces me to speak the language in a way that’s completely different from class, and I get to practice using the language in a more improvisational way, speaking more off the top of my head.”

The team practices twice a week and competes in two debates per semester. However, students do not have to be a debater to be a member of the club.

The society competes in the British Parliamentary Debate format, which is the most popular style of intercollegiate debate worldwide. Competing members do not know the topic they will be tasked with debating or the position they will have to defend until 15 minutes before the debate. They also must prepare their arguments themselves, without the use of technology. 

Though not as prevalent in the United States, the British Parliamentary Debate community is one that extends to various countries and spans many cultures. University students worldwide put effort into improving their public speaking, as well as creating a space where competitors are pushed to be their best. 

Many members view the club as a way to prepare for future careers that value public speaking skills. In addition, the wide range of topics that could be chosen for a debate and the minimal preparation allowed require that competitors keep up with international news.

Sophomore Elena Toro explained how the club offers many benefits outside of developing ones language skills.

“This club is definitely a really good way to prepare for a future career, but it also helps with a lot of life skills,” Toro said. “It keeps you informed on current events and the different perspectives surrounding them, making you keep an open mind.”

“It is helpful for me to practice thinking on my feet and speaking on subjects that I don’t know much about,” Mueller explained.

This past weekend, SLDS went to Spain to debate at the Elias Ahuja College in Madrid, and instead of competing with the team, Martinez Angoitia served as a judge. 

Angoitia explained that experiencing the tournament from a different perspective and judging alongside the best speakers and judges in the world was a life-changing moment. 

“They taught me so many new ways of understanding and analyzing the different elements in speeches,” Martinez Angoitia said.

Last November, the team participated in the debate tournament hosted by the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico City, an event they hope to return to this year.

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