25th March 2021
Writing: Sebastian McGrath (Year 12)
Editing: Aayush Mukherjee (Year 11)
On Wednesday 17th March, the Year 12 German debating team won the final of the national competition run by the well-established Goethe Institute. All three rounds preceding the final were tough battles to contend with, but we were in for a shock in the final contest because the opposing members of the Farnborough Sixth Form College were exceptional; it was a kaleidoscope of emotions between the end of the debate and finding out the all-anticipated results. However, there was no need to fret as we came out victorious, meaning Challoner’s has duly earned the accolade of winning the past two debating competitions we have participated in, following the victory of the team two years ago. It’s great to fill the high and mighty boots of our predecessors, and it’s been a fantastic experience for us all.
The final proposition was “gender-appropriate language counteracts discrimination”, with our team arguing against the statement. Fear not - I didn’t have a clue how to argue that either at first. I’m the first to admit it took a very long time even to understand what I was arguing against! My point encompassed the claim that catering to all genders’ needs changes to the language almost beyond recognition, as the Germans propose adding asterisks e.g. Lehrer*in, and brackets all over the place. My point was punctuated with me dressing up as a baker, complete with an apron, baker hat and whisk (I wasn’t sure how it would go down, but I took the ‘whisk’ anyway!). This was to explain the difference between the male and female versions of the word Bäcker (baker), and the new gender-neutral word ‘Backende’ (the one who bakes - this relegates the job to a mere hobby!).
Our team captain, Florence Beckley, argued that there needs to be social change before a linguistic change, as shown by Sweden, who legalised homosexuality in 1944 and, 70 years later, introduced the gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ into their official dictionary. It was the social change that allowed this to happen, not the linguistic change. Meanwhile, Nimi Ryatt claimed that a changed language will do nothing to prevent discrimination as it only serves as a distraction to the prejudiced mentality - rather, we should focus our efforts on education. Finally, Neta Morrag finished with a wonderful performance including a top hat and a cane, which helped prove her point that there shouldn’t be words to distinguish between sexualities, genders and the marriage status of women as it only serves to make them targets for discrimination.
A special thanks must go to Mrs Whittle, Mrs Burton and the Goethe Institute for making this possible.