A Debate... in Spanish? Oh No..

By: Dominique Coulter

A debate… solely in Spanish??

On sex education and gay rights??

I can hardly say “hola, ¿cómo estás?” most days, and now my teacher is expecting me to say words such as “sex” and “homosexual” in SPANISH?

What in heck did I sign up for when I agreed to switch to a more difficult, “advanced Spanish conversation” class at the beginning of January?

At first, the difficulties I faced in the classroom six hours every week revolved around the teacher only speaking in Spanish, and my Spanish partners being of Hispanic descent who were already essentially fluent in the language.

I felt like a fish out of water my first few months gasping for air on too many occasions as I struggled to keep up with my classmates.

This is a Spanish… SPEAKING class. I get that.

I get that I am living in Spain for the year.

And that my goal was initially to learn Spanish and be able to communicate in the language.

But… really now?

So when I found out that the teacher would be assigning our groups for the Spanish debate- “contra” or “favor”- and that we would have to prepare research in Spanish to argue our position in class the following week, I was panicking.

I can’t…

My Spanish isn’t…

When is the next flight out of Sevilla and to the USA? I gotta get outa here ASAP!


All right Dominique… suck.it.up and start preparing for this debate!

I prepped for my class by doing research in Spanish on Google, and after a few hours of investigation, I was finally feeling pretty comfortable.

By now, my Spanish classes had prepared me to read numerous articles in Spanish. I could even watch the news and understand most of what the news anchors were talking about. I could communicate decently well in the language. And, I had a clear understanding of the different Spanish tenses. I had come a loooong way, largely thanks to these classes.

But when it comes to speaking in Spanish with Spaniards, or even my American classmates, too often I think I sound like a monotonous, stuttering robot that is in need of new batteries.

Well, the day of the debate arrived and after little prep with my team, we began the debate.

The first sentence that came out of my mouth was uttered without me even thinking twice about the subject.

“De acuerdo contigo, pero me parece que matrimonio gay es…”

[I agree with you, but it seems to me that gay marriage is…]

An hour later, our groups nailed both debates.

It took a little while for me to gain the courage to speak up and make my arguments in Spanish, but once I opened my mouth for the first time… it was tough to shut me up!

Being passionate about something in English is one thing, but being passionate and speaking out in one’s pretend second language is a whole-nother-topic!

I walked away from that class with a huge smile on my face.

I did it.

We did it.

Maybe the teacher did not elect a winner for the debate. Maybe we made several grammatical mistakes.

Whatever the reason, we had just successfully completed a debate covering a few extremely controversial topics… in another language!

How many people can say they have participated in a classroom discussion such as this in a language that is not their mother tongue?

I realized at that moment, that if I could participate in a debate on topics such as these… then in the future, the sky was my limit with the Spanish language!

I can’t wait to see what other difficult opportunities may come my way inside and outside of the classroom to challenge myself with this new wanna be second language of mine.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingDominique Coulter is an American expat living in Spain. Blog description: Stories and adventures of life abroad in Southern Spain as an au pair learning Spanish and teaching English to three kids. Oh, and traveling some too.
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Contest Comments » There is 1 comment

Heidi wrote 10 years ago:

Love your humor! I can't imagine having to argue either of those topics in another language!

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