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Have a Great Debate

Debating is a kind of arguing but it is not easy to do well. However, if you at least try, it will prepare you for times in the future when you must speak English under pressure, such as in a job interview or when having a lively discussion in a group. Try the following topics with a friend for practice:

Topic One is in the form of "A against B". In this example, you and your friend should discuss "dogs or cats, which are better?". You could argue for cats, while your friend argues for dogs. You must give reasons why cats are better while your friend gives reasons why dogs are better. You must also try to explain why your friend's reasons are wrong. If your friend tries to say that your reasons are wrong, you have to defend your point of view.

When you come to the end of the debate, you should try to summarize your reasons, especially the best reasons, in favor of cats. Use a timer when debating. For example, you might give yourself and your partner one or two minutes in turn. You could have three chances each to give different reasons, and three chances to argue against (or "refute") your friend's arguments. That would make a total of 12 minutes but you might need a little extra time for summaries, so plan on 15 minutes.

Topic Two is in the form "For or Against". In this example, you must either be for smoking in restaurants or against smoking in restaurants. Give reasons and argue against your friend's reasons, just like in Topic One. Of course you can change the specific topics. Instead of "dogs against cats", you could argue "movie theaters against DVDs" or "hard work against enjoying life". Instead of "for and against smoking in restaurants", you could argue "for and against new anti-polution laws" or "for and against trying to fly to Mars". ANY topic is okay! Just PRACTICE!

Try to be clear and logical most of the time. Sometimes, however, you can give a crazy, emotional reason to challenge your friend. However, if your friend tries a crazy, emotional question on you, don't give a crazy answer! You should always respond calmly and repeat your very best answer. If possible, have another friend listen as a judge. The judge can give one point for a good reason, two points for an excellent reason, and subtract one point for each weak argument.

With this kind of practice, don't worry if you don't really believe one side is better than the other. Your goal is to practice being clear, logical and persuasive. One of Teacher Joe's friends is a great debater and actually prefers to take the side he disagrees with the most. Why? Because it's better practice for him! You should take the same attitude if you want to bring your English to a higher level.

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