Even though WSDC is not an English language competition, its operational language is English. Therefore, as obvious as it sounds, it is important to bear in mind that the debaters chosen to be on the team need to have a good command of English. WSDC, despite fully acknowledging that English can be spoken in a myriad of ways, does not grant special privilege to nations whose first language is not English. It is believed that for a nation to choose to compete in WSDC is to fully acknowledge that they will be expected to follow all the requirements fully, including using English as the language of speech.
However, please be advised that good command of English does not always mean perfect grammar. There have been cases of nations using an English proficiency test such as TOEFL to select team members. Despite it being a viable way to evaluate a minimum level of English, it overlooks the fact that debating is not merely about having a good command of English but also the use of logic, persuasion, argumentation and conveying messages effectively. These are qualities that aren’t necessarily vetted by using English proficiency tests. If you do choose to use such tests in your selection process you should remember that they only paint part of the picture and there is much more to consider.
It is also important to remember that debaters will not be discriminated against at WSDC for accent variations. There is no need to only select students who have the most polished ‘English sounding tone to their voice. Although style is extremely important, it is also very subjective in many ways and the WSDC community places great value on the diversity of its participants.
Finally, although WSDC judges are required to mark every debate and debater to the same standard, the WSDC rules do recognize the achievement of nations who compete in a language which is not their first. There are two awards given at WSDC to the highest ranked teams speaking in the category of ‘English as a Second Language’ (ESL) and ‘English as a Foreign Language’ (EFL) (Please refer to the Resources section for information on how to determine which category your team might be eligible for)