Speech delegates travel to Singapore for Cultural Convention


Eighteen Taipei American School students traveled to Singapore American School to compete at the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools Cultural Convention for forensics and debate from March 1-3.
In debate, two teams of three students debate five rounds, with a different proposition for each round. The IASAS committee creates 36 propositions prior to the debate, then the debated topics are chosen out of a hat at the Convention.
Forensics consisted of five events. In extemporaneous speaking, speakers have 30 minutes to prepare a five to seven-minute speech about one of two provided current events-related questions. In impromptu speaking, speakers have one minute to prepare a three to five-minute speech on one of the two topics provided. In oral interpretation, speakers read aloud a work of prose or poetry for five to seven minutes, using both voice and facial expression to convey the meaning of the piece. In original oratory, speakers deliver a five to seven-minute long prepared persuasive speech on any topic.
Three delegates from each school compete in each event, then out of 18 students, six are chosen to go on to the finals. After another round, three medalists are chosen. All three TAS extemporaneous speaking delegates—Ashley Lin (‘18), Janice Yang (‘18), and April Tsai (‘19)—were finalists. Ashley won a silver medal, Janice won a bronze medal, and April tied for third place but did not medal. In original oratory, Annabel Uhlman (‘18) and Nicole Chang (‘18) made the finals. Annabel was also a finalist for impromptu.

Each event came with Its own distinctive challenges. Original interpretation delegates manipulated their voices to distinguish between different characters, giving each one unique accents and emotions. “I try to choose pieces that don’t include too many male voices, because it’s always hard to lower my voice to sound like a male,” says Tiffany Chen (‘18).
Extemporaneous speaking delegates, who had to be ready to speak about current events without access to the Internet for research, collected news articles into a team Dropbox before the Convention. “Basically any country is fair game during rounds, so you need to be really updated, even about the politics and situation of really obscure countries,” says April.
Instead of drawing on in-depth research, impromptu speakers relied upon reservoirs of content ranging from personal experience or background knowledge to current events and pop culture. “I love impromptu because it’s terrifying,” says Annabel. “One minute is such a short amount of time [to prepare a speech], so you really have to think on your feet.”
By contrast, original oratory speakers spent months researching and crafting their speeches, and also had to fine-tune their delivery. Nicole says, “Giving speeches is pretty complex. I’ve learned so much about utilizing volume, vocal variety, eye contact, hand gestures to really persuade people.
Meanwhile, veteran debates like Theodora Tang (‘18) adapted to the IASAS form of debate and its emphasis on style In addition to substance. “Sounding good isn’t so important in many other forms of debate, like policy debate. What matters is content because that’s what it’s judged on,” says Theodora. Not only did the team debate complex issues like “violence is a justifiable response to oppression,” but they were also faced with an unconventional proposition, “This house would let the wookie win,” meaning that the debaters had to contend with the diversity of possible interpretations.
For the 18 students who attended practice sessions multiple times a week and conquered their nerves as they stood behind their lecterns, the Cultural Convention was an exhilarating experience. “Runners get a runner’s high; I get a debate high,” says Theodora.
Watch the competitors’ speeches at https://iasasdebateforensics2018.com/