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“I know that most people have a fear of public speaking. In fact, in my classes, I started the first day by telling my students that speaking in front of an audience is the number one fear in the United States. Death is only seventh on the list. That means more people would rather die than get up to speak in front of a group.”

When you first started learning English, you probably began with grammar rules. Often, students learn to read and write English before they practice their oral (speaking) skills. If this happened to you, speaking in English may not be as easy as writing in English. You may even be so shy that you do not want to share your ideas.”

Discussing various topics has helped the students to become better speakers in all situations – private and public. We analysed the presidential debates of Obama and McCain and one of our meetings was connected with both Columbine and Winnenden. The students discussed the sale of human organs and whether monitoring people is good because “It keeps people honest”. But we also took a relatively light-hearted look at national stereotypes and watched Jerry Springer’s talk show guests crossing swords.

It should not be forgotten to mention the support of our foreign language assistant. Rob’s insight in the American way of life and his delightful sense of humour were a most valuable contribution.

To prove that our debaters had learned to get over their fears we travelled to London for 5 days (July 2009). Since the late nineteenth century London’s Hyde Park has become a traditional site for public speeches and debate. Visiting Speaker’s corner and exploring one of the most exciting cities in the world turned out to be the highlight of the Debate Club.

Gary Rybold: Speaking, Listening and Understanding - Debate for Non-Native-English Speakers (2006)