Having debated in English for more than two years, Theam Sothidaneath, 19, is now an adjudicator in the IFL Debate Club. The fourth-year Bachelor of Education student at IFL has performed outstandingly in national and international debate tournaments, taking first place in the JCI National Debate, second place in a regional debate in Hong Kong in 2012, second place in an international debate tournament in Kyrgyzstan in 2013, and shining at the Educational Forum and Young Speakers Contest in Indonesia this year. Daneath tells LIFT of her experiences and strategies as a female debater.
How did you become interested in debate?
I wanted to improve my confidence and my public speaking skills, so I joined the debate club in my second year at university.
What do you like the most about debating?
Being on stage! When I am on stage, whether I win or lose is not important.
What are the main skills you need to be a good debater?
The first skill you should have is critical thinking. We cannot go on stage and just say whatever we want to say – we need to have concrete evidence and concrete examples.
Secondly, team collaboration is crucial because debate is not just about public speaking. You cannot go there and talk alone; you have to work with your team members. If your team has good collaboration, you will win the debate!
Thirdly, you have to build your confidence! If you lose your confidence, no matter how well you have prepared, you won’t be able to say it well.
How can you make sure all team members work well together?
Teamwork is not easy because people always have different ideas, so sometimes it leads to conflict, so we have to negotiate in order to reach one idea everyone in the group can accept.
What else is needed to complement these three main skills?
We have to find out something to persuade our audiences and judges. Additionally, it’s not only about presenting your stance, but also about rebutting your opponents.
How popular is debating among Cambodians?
Debate is popular depending on the areas and university. For example, it’s famous in IFL, University of Puthisastra, Norton University, so on and so forth. But in rural areas, people don’t even know what debating is. One of the main things is that most people are shy, and they don’t like talking much, but debate is about showing ideas.
However, I think that within a few years we will make debate culture more popular in Cambodia.
What kind of personality does it take to be a debater?
Most importantly interest and curiosity. You must be a person who wants to know what debate is. You also need a sense of opportunity. When the opportunity comes, just try it.