We kept our ears close to the door to a classroom in Bobst hall. The second we heard a round of applause, without hesitating, we boldly opened the door, and hurried to the back of the classroom, trying our best to make the least disturbance as possible. The people acted indifferently, as if we weren’t there. As a result, we were able to listen and take pictures of few rounds of the Australs.
The debaters we listened to were absolutely stunning. In spite of the rather tense atmosphere of the classroom, they spoke so confidently, without a second of consideration on every syllable. It was as if they were reading off an invisible script in front of their eyes. Their eyes seemed to be catching everyone in the classroom, including us, and it all seemed so natural and professional. After a few minutes which felt like hours, a person sitting in the middle of the room abruptly clapped once, and after a while, clapped twice. Considering the fact that the debater finished his argument moments after the double clap, we figured that it was a sign saying that time was up, and that was the cue for us to leave. That was just 8 minutes of thousands of minutes speech which took place in the Australs.
Though we could not watch every single round, we were able to watch the grand finals which took place in the 63 building in Yeoeuido. We went in casual fashion but regretted it soon – everyone was in tuxedos or dresses. The final debate began, and the room was filled with a great tension that even the snapping of cameras seemed to batter our ear drums.
Introduction of Australs
The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships (Australs) is a debating tournament that students in Australasian region participate. Since the University of Sydney started it in 1975, Australs has continually attracted 300 competitors from the Asia–Pacific region. Chung-Ang University was selected as the host university this year by The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Association (AIDA) council. Students from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines attended the Australs.
Victoria University of Wellington in Wellington, New Zealand will host the Australs in 2012. Australs follows the Australia-Asian Debating format, which is a format in which two teams consist of "Affirmative-agree with the topic" or "Negative-disagree with the topic". The audience decides the winner of the debate. However, the adjudicator decides the winner in formal debate tournaments such as Australs.
The adjudicator signals a first warning one and two minutes before the speaker expires a time.
The adjudicator signals a second warning before the debater ought to conclude as soon as possible. The adjudicator signals a final warning that a speaker must complete his or her speech within 30 seconds. In case of this time, a warning is replaced with clap sound.
Interview with chief adjudicator, Ah-young
What did you think of the quality of the debaters this year?
I was really happy with the quality of the debaters. Australs is always a good tournament that brings out the quality of the debaters and its better than some other regional tournaments because simply it’s a bigger tournament, but this year I was especially happy with how the Asian debaters were doing, and northeast Asian debaters as well. Last year we had 1 northeast Asian debater team but this year we had 2, Kyunghee and Ewha so it was two times more than last year.
What are some fun or beneficial elements to adjudicating this kind of tournament?
Simply being able to see such good quality debates, being able to interact with the debaters, and also see different types of debates, the different styles in which people try to explain their thoughts. For me as a chief adjudicator, I really was happy because this was a chance for me to give back to my region and my community and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the support that I’ve received so far.
Any overall comments on the Korea Australs 2011?
I really hope it becomes a chance for a lot more Koreans to start debating whether it’s in English or Korean. I know there are some Korean debating tournaments as well, and I think that’s a good sign. No matter what language it’s in, I think the most important thing about debate is being able to share ideas and not be offended by it. Koreans in general don’t feel so comfortable disagreeing with other people and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, especially if it’s only because of hierarchy or seniority. I think having been in debate helps you overcome that. I’m not saying that culture should be completely disregarded and I like seniority, I’m a big abuser of it (laugh) but I think being able to have a productive conversation with another person that disagrees with you is important since you get to know why another person thinks a certain way about their statement. So in general, I hope more people will be interested in debate and try it out too.
Interview with a member of the champion team Victoria 1, Richard D’ath
First of all, congratulations, how does it feel to win the first prize? Were you expecting it at all?
Very good, After the final it seemed that a lot of people in the audience thought that we had a good chance.
What does winning the prize mean to you?
Quite a lot, I’ve been here for 5 years and this is my last year so it means quite a lot.
What team do you think was the strongest rival and why?
I think our strongest rival was probably Monash 1 and also Sydney 1, they’re both exceptional teams, we saw them both once each. They’re both very good debating institutions, Monash and Sydney both win a lot of the time and they had an incredibly strong team and in this tournament they had the best two speakers as well, all of those reasons I think makes them the strongest rivals.
OK, another question, what drives you to debate, what makes you do this?
What makes me do this? I love it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good competition and the people here are great.
What do you think about the quality of this debating tournament?
I think it was quite a high quality. It was a bigger tournament than most other tournaments and it’s also bigger than the normal Australasian tournament.
Oh, so this was a rather big one.
What do you have to say to fellow debaters who strive to be in your place in the next tournament?
Ha ha, they should keep on coming. And it will take a long long time. But if they continue at it, I’m sure they could do very very well.
Interview with a Chung-Ang university participant, Kim Tae-young
When you go out to make a speech, is it all prepared in advance, or do you also improvise?
It all depends on how well you do during the 30 minute preparation time, but there are definitely some parts where I improvise. Frankly, 30 minutes is a short amount of time to prepare, and the 8 minute speech time is even shorter, so it would be a stretch to say that I plan out the whole speech perfectly. There are parts of the speech where I need to go deeper into the issue for more analysis, but it is hard to do that during the preparation time. So you could say that the parts where I go deeper into the topic for extra analysis is improvised.
How did you prepare for this tournament?
I started preparing for this tournament since the final exam period. I looked through Australian newspapers, columns, read a lot of books, and practiced debate during sessions of my study group. We gathered all of our research papers to study, and I also practiced speech by myself and watched some debate videos.
What aspects do you think the Korean team needs to improve on?
The Korean team needs to analyze their thoughts in more detail. For example Koreans might say, “Abortion should be banned, because life is precious.” However, Australians go an extra step and explain why life is precious, why it should be protected, what effect it will have on society if abortion were to be allowed. Koreans have a tendency to take their statements for granted, or think that their statement is obvious and that further explanation isn’t needed. Also, Korean teams don’t refute directly to the opposing sides argument. For example, if Australians say “Abortion should be allowed, because there is no standard as to when the fetus is regarded as a whole being, and mothers rights should be respected first.” Koreans tend to reduce this and say “We don’t really know if it is a human being or not, its very vague…” and don’t attack the opposing sides argument. So Koreans need to improve on clarifying and analyzing their statements.
Were there any participants that you thought you could learn from?
There were definitely a lot of people to learn from. There was a debater in particular named Imra from the National University of Singapore. He made it to the finals, and he’s a brilliant speaker who includes a lot of elaboration in his speech and is very specific.
How was the Korean team formed?
It depends on the school, but in the case of Chung-Ang University, we had several mini debates. Once the speakers were ranked, the person who got ranked 1st chose 1 person, then the 2nd person chose another person and on and on and that’s how our teams were formed.
Students in CAU should realize that in this world, there are students who are competitive and hard-working. What is important is not simply speaking out opinions and listening to everyone else’s, it is all about sharing and communicating what we think and know. The Australs has no prize money because it is sponsored by its students. However, the contestants are all world-class debaters, so the award can be considered as the “Student Nobel prize”.
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