The art of speaking is hard to master.
I began my debating career almost three years ago in Pakistan. Slowly and gradually I climbed the ladder of public speaking. It was right after I had achieved a big break in debating that I came to Berlin and found myself in one of ECLA’s seminars, dumbfounded and numb. The article below will reveal a lot of the things I discovered speaking and expressing myself in the seminars and as I started debating with the Berlin Debating Union.
ECLA seminars demanded extreme honesty on extremely difficult and demanding texts. Not only was seminar participation focused on your input about a certain text but other people’s ideas and questions instigated one to participate. It took me some time to understand the actual meaning of this participation and I struggled to speak my heart and mind about philosophers I esteemed. I was so scared having never meddled with them so casually before.
I was also learning what it meant to engage with a literary idea with all your heart and soul. The peer pressure was humungous. Initially everybody noticed your way of speaking, what you had to say and the recurrent theme in your questions and ideas. In close quarters, everyone discussed each other’s way of speaking. Some people were permanent favorites and others marred for good.
I questioned my own ability to talk and present something in public. Back home, I had received a celebrity status in my own college for my talents in oratory delivery. But who knew that an ECLA seminar would be just a lot more than speaking and presenting your ideas. As I was struggling to acquire a firm grip of this methodology I came across the Berlin Debating Union and I started debating with a group of people passionate about world affairs and debating itself.
It was a classic case of going from theory to practice. Where in a seminar I was learning to speak from my heart, in parliamentary debates I changed my approach towards speaking and I brought the two worlds together, to much benefit.
Every Tuesday night before the motion I stood. Even now as I stand, saying “This house believes that . . .”, I force myself not to just reproduce what I read in the Economist. Instead, I do what we all do in ECLA seminars: emotionally, spiritually, and rationally associate with the text.
In the beginning this resulted in me being unable to deliver a speech during several debate sessions, as I was trying to focus very hard on what the topic meant for me. But as time passed and as my fellow debater friends have witnessed, my debating skills have become much more refined and sophisticated.
As I travelled to attend some debating tournaments, I saw what superficial and bad treatment scores of debaters gave to the topic at hand. Whatever they had learned through bits and pieces of news, they would puke out in the seven minutes they would get in the debating match. The seminars at ECLA had helped me so much, as I was passionately able to associate myself with what I was speaking. Not only that, I was able to deeply analyze a topic which remains the prime concern of any good debate.
The challenge that I faced in the form of preparing for ECLA seminars helped not only in getting reasonable grades, but also helped me in refining my thought process and the understanding of the subject matter as a whole.