- Second Language Conferencing.
The problem was particularly acute in Haifa with more than a third of the judges being Israelis, there were repeated complaints of them conferring in Hebrew. This is a problem I also know happened with Israeli adjudicators in championships abroad, and I have personally seen it also happens when judges of other nationalities sit in one panel. It enables them to coordinate opinion ‘against’ the third judge, and even if they don’t – it leaves a bad taste of unfairness. I stressed it twice in the daily briefings, but I feel I should have done more to clarify that English is the only language for debating and adjudication.
- Accent Bias. Every briefings in Worlds and Europeans stresses how important it is to be open-minded to ESL speakers with a heavy accent and imperfect English. Those statements are usually directed at the EFL part of the room, but the fact is that ESL adjudicators are usually harsher on their fellows than the British, Aussies etc. This may be because these judges have a harder time understanding what is being said, and so prefer English fluency. Itmight also be because in our native countries, the better and brighter debaters are usually better English speakers as well, and so our mind is conditioned to preferring people who speak better English.
- 1st prop gets the room–
There is a rule of thumb in championships that say that 1st prop gets the room to prepare, which is very fair indeed. It is crucial that it will be kept when the opening gov is an English speaking team. That is because the other teams can eavesdrop on what they say, whereas many ESL teams preparing can use their language (although, again, the top ESL teams do their prepin English).
- Defining ESLhood –
This is a perennial problem, and I’m sure no single solution would satisfy all debaters, but here are my suggestions:
Failing that, do note that ESL is a bit like virginity- you can lose it in several ways, but you can’t ‘become’ a virgin. Therefore, certification should be done along the lines of
- ‘have you been through one of the following:
- 1. lived in an english speaking country for more than __ years; or
- 2. studied in an english speaking institute for more than __ years;or
- 3. speak English at home
answering affirmatively to one of these should disqualify you as ESL.
Now let’s just fill in the blanks, and get it approved in council…