ESU Portugal - The Power of Speech

Monday 24 September 2018

Through debating and public speaking activities in English, ESU Portugal aims to raise the aspirations of students in our high schools and improve their life-changing educational opportunities. To this end, ESU Portugal has been giving coaching and tuition sessions to schools, to our National Public Speaking Competition participants and to our national winners, to help them to prepare for the International Public Speaking Competition.

At ESU Portugal, we are fully aware that debating and public speaking foster and encourage learning and raise students’ ambitions regarding their future careers and opportunities. This awareness has been reinforced by very positive feedback from some of our alumni. Guilherme Duarte, for example, a participant in our NPSC 2012, told us recently that taking part in such activities was instrumental in helping him get the job he aspired to. When he first went to University, here in Portugal, he rang us one day, very happy and excited, because he had applied for a post at the University and, despite the large number of applicants, he had got the job. He told us that the last part of the interview had been a debate and as he was the only applicant who had experience of parliamentary debate, his performance and confidence stood out. He is now working for NIKE in Holland, where his determination to succeed and skills were noticed by the management who offered him a permanent job even before he had completed his internship.

Inês Duarte, our NPSC 2016 runner-up, also told us that when she started University last year, her Psychology lecturer, who is Swedish, wanted one of the students to be a sort of liaison officer between the students and herself, as she did not speak much Portuguese. The lecturer told the students they had to prepare and deliver a speech on a topic she gave them. Due to her experience of taking part in debating and public-speaking activities at school, Inês was offered the job. She was very happy and excited about her success. She told her teacher, “You were right. All the hard work you put us through – preparing our speeches, standing in front of an audience and arguing our case, answering questions – was difficult to accept at times, but it really makes sense to me now. Thank you and the ESU for having given me this opportunity.”

The main aim of the English-Speaking Union is to promote international understanding and tolerance through the use of the English language. It is our belief that so much world conflict and misunderstanding could be avoided if only people listened more carefully to one another. Debating and public speaking do help students to become more attentive listeners, much more receptive to differences and much more tolerant. Mafalda Moreira, our 2018 NPSC winner who participated in the IPSC, in London, told us,

When I grow old, and my memory starts to fail me, the competition and the activities we took part in are not the things that I will remember – it will be the speakers themselves and the friendships I made. Between activities, we would talk Netflix, Eurovision, world politics and ethics as if we were old friends at a very diverse high-school reunion. And thanks to the magic of social media, we still do. Every single day, I chat with my international friends, the ones who, I’m sure will one day be sitting in 'a certain building in New York City', if the gods of the universe play their cards right (someone said this, and I agree).

I feel tremendously grateful to have had the chance to take part in this competition and to have met these remarkable individuals from all corners of the globe. This has been a unique, unforgettable experience. To share my own culture with so many other young people and to learn about their cultures was sheer magic.

At ESU Portugal, we hope to be able to continue developing this work and to get more schools and teachers involved in the activities we promote, so that together we can inspire and encourage more students to fulfil their aspirations.

Find out more about our International network of English-Speaking Unions.