April 6, 2018, by Words on Words
Volunteering at the Nottingham Debating Union
This blog post was written by (2+2) English Language and Literature student, Yangyang Zheng.
I was introduced to British Parliamentary Style Debate in my first year at UNNC. I joined the Nottingham Debating Union China (NDUC), and later, in my second year, became its president. Debating has always been a great way to force me to be in others’ shoes and to think from multiple perspectives. It also requires me to pay attention to news from around the world about all kinds of different topics and absorb as much knowledge as possible. NDUC has its own training activities but we encouraged our members to go to different workshops and tournaments and practice their skills by brain-storming with debaters from other schools and clubs. We also held the 3rd China Debate Camp last July, which was a seven-day workshop with a small tournament. Here at UNUK, I didn’t find much time for club activities, yet I volunteered at the Nottingham Open Debate that took place on 24th and 25th February, hoping to relive my previous debating experiences.
The Nottingham Open Debate is open to debaters from different universities. I went to similar tournaments such as the Shanghai International Debate Open and the Canton Inter-Varsity with other members of NDUC when I was an active debater. Yet, one has to keep practicing in order to remain fluent in debating. This is even more the case for someone like me who speaks English as a second language. So, this time, I preferred to take up the opportunity to try my luck on the other side of the podium by volunteering and listening to the debates from the back row. My job as a volunteer was basically pointing people in the direction of the debate room, collecting balance sheets and cleaning the classrooms after the debates had finished. The event started at 9 on Saturday morning. There were 7 rounds in total: 5 rounds plus a semi-final and a final. Motions or debate topics cover fields such as feminism, economics, and philosophy. On Saturday night, there was a chance for sharing pizza and socialising after the day’s debate. I would normally stay close to my friends because I’m not very good at chit-chat, but I didn’t bring any friends this time, so I was slightly nervous about being left alone. Luckily, I was invited to share a pizza with debaters from Cardiff and Nottingham Trent University. Having debating as a common hobby, there’s a lot to talk about, and I saw this is a good chance for me to actually talk to people outside seminars and group work.
What debating has brought to me is more than words can describe. It breaks the boundaries of “a standard answer” and ask me to come to conclusions of my own. Debating in English also builds my confidence in using a second language. It enhances my ability to explain certain concepts or things that I lack the right vocabulary for, which links to what Professor Dörnyei, an expert in these kinds of things from the School of English, might call Strategic Competence. While in China, I also made close friends in NDUC, some of which will be studying here at UNUK next semester. I believe they’ll also find debating here challenging, but great fun and very rewarding!