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Press Reviews of Compelling
Conversations – Vietnam
“A book like Compelling Conversations is indispensable for any English teacher.”
“What do learners of English want when they start learning English language? Of course they want to be able to communicate with others in English. In other words, they want to speak English fluently. Compelling Conversations – Questions & Quotations for Advance Vietnamese English language learners textbook does just that … it helps learners of English to speak English fluently…As an English teacher in Vietnam, I know how difficult is for Vietnamese learners of English to have a group discussion in English…
A month ago (on October 2nd to be more exact) I had a private class (teenager students). I have downloaded one of the free chapters (chapter 3 – Being home) of Compelling conversations book. Before presenting the material to my students I told them that today we are going to talk about “my home”. I told them to think about questions they would like to ask their partners in order to get as many information as possible about their partners’ house. At the first view the topic seemed to be very easy but actually wasn’t After several minutes of thinking about questions and trying to formulate correct questions, one student said: “Teacher! I really don’t know what I should ask about her home.” If you teach English in Vietnam then you probably experienced this kind of situation. After I presented the material everything transformed into a smooth and relaxing conversation.
All chapters of Compelling Conversation contain predefined questions to get students talking from the first moment. Great resources such as reproducible worksheets for students, surveys etc. can be found in every chapter of the book. Throughout the book proverbs related to each topic are given to the students to discuss… these are the main reasons why I think a book like Compelling Conversations is indispensable for any English teacher.”
“Compelling Conversations is a text that encourages multiculturalism, that is flexible enough to use for all ages of advanced English language learners, and that gives a personally relevant, tailored experience for advanced Vietnamese ELLs to formulate their opinions in anticipation of present and future communications with English speakers…. I recommend this book as a backbone for a lively conversation class.”
“Often it is the duty of the ESL speaking and listening teacher to tailor the text to their class culture and demographics; therefore it is a novel idea to produce a textbook for speaking skills of a particular English language learner. When creating a curriculum for ESL speaking students, teachers should consider many demographic and cultural aspects of their students (Folse, 2006). Roth and Aberson have employed such an approach for Vietnamese ELLs in Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners where careful knowledge of Vietnamese culture, customs and values, first- (L1) to second-language (L2) transference issues, and expertise in the field of ESL speaking have been well documented. Compelling Conversations is a text that encourages multiculturalism, that is flexible enough to use for all ages of advanced English language learners, and that gives a personally relevant, tailored experience for advanced Vietnamese ELLs to formulate their opinions in anticipation of present and future communications with English speakers…”
“As I taught a conversation class (an eikaiwa) in Japan to advanced ELLs, I can see and recommend this book as a backbone for a lively conversation class. Although it is tailored to Vietnamese culture with certain phrases and examples, if the teacher feels comfortable predicting the cultural issues that could arise and editing them before class, I would not hesitate to use this text for other cultures. Depending on the instruction style of the teacher, and the culture of the students, the cultural differences could provide interesting comparison and contrast debate topics as well. As this book was intended for a Vietnamese audience, students from other cultures may feel as if they were not the intended audience. Therefore, if the students are not of Vietnamese descent, this text could be problematic to use in a conversation classroom as-is. However, the text targets advanced Vietnamese ELLs with culturally relevant content that understands and validates the bicultural transformation that Vietnamese ELLs undergo….”
“Perhaps my most favored aspect of the book arrives in the first few pages where the authors send a personal message to the students emphasizing their desire for the students to speak in English, although not by admonishing Vietnamese. This personal message to the student stressing the importance of both languages is paramount the inextricable link between language and culture must not be violated; instead bilingualism and bi-culturalism should be fostered within the student (Dicker, 2003). Roth and Aberson graciously encourage multicultural curiosity within this text by their interviewing techniques and soft cultural reminders to the students not to be intimidated of foreigners and to encourage one another. Students are advised in the beginning as well that the goal of any speaking activity is the level of intelligibility that they can speak with, instead of the native-sounding phonological aims that many students have (Derwing & Munro, 2005). Compelling Conversationsestablishes a classroom culture revolving around respect and encouragement from the beginning…”
“Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners gently but firmly encourages advanced Vietnamese students to think critically about their own culture, and those of others around the world in English so that they can more effectively communicate in an advanced manner with other speakers of English.”
Sarah Elizabeth Snyder, Northern Arizona University
Teaching English as a Second Language – Electronic Journal
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“Compelling Conversations is a great book to get my students to talk beyond the usual topics they find in ESL textbooks in Vietnam. The topics encourage students to think, discuss, and exchange ideas and their own personal interpretations of idioms, quotes and proverbs. This is a welcome break from the somewhat rigid or structured speaking and listening books that we have used before. My students from Korea and Turkey also use this book as the main text in our Free Talking class. If you want to have your students talking and conversing, this book is a must-have! This book is also a big help in exposing our ELL students in Vietnam to quotes that are often used in SAT type essay prompts.”
Leah Montano, ELD Program Coordinator
APU International School
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Language of Opportunity
“Roth believes that the English language itself can be liberating.
‘Learning English can allow some to escape the prison of their national background. In many languages, the words are either masculine or feminine. English doesn’t do this. Much has been written about why English-speaking countries were the first of women’s rights; the language doesn’t discriminate against women structurally.’
Thousands of copies of Compelling Conversations have sold worldwide, and new editions are being tailored for specific countries. Roth’s longtime friend and former U.S. Assistant Federal Defender Steve Riggs ’81 worked with him in Ho Chi Minh City as he tried to establish the university and edited the book for students in Vietnam.
‘At first I’d planned to bring Compelling Conversations into my classroom, but I was reminded that might not be a good idea,’ Roth explains. ‘One of the first quotes is, ‘Free speech is a rare and precious right.’ But free speech is not a right in Vietnam.’
So he asked Riggs to ‘tailor the book in a way that acknowledges the tremendous influence of national culture.’
Wabash College – Fall 2011 – by Steve Charles
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“There are numerous approaches to language learning. Many claim to be the single best method. All of them, at some point, though, involve practice conversations. Compelling Conversations: Questions & Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners serves as a useful adjunct to any of them. Designed to be a conversation starter for native Vietnamese speakers in a classroom setting, it would work well for any foreign-language speaker attempting to become fluent in English.
Compelling Conversations: Questions & Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners is divided into chapters by theme. The themes include common topics like family, eating, health, personal preferences, and culture. The chapters do not get progressively harder. Rather, familiar themes are used to develop fluency, agility, and comprehension. Each of the fifteen chapters follows the same format. For example, the chapter called “Being Home” begins with fifteen suggested questions like, “Did you have a checklist when you were looking for a home? What was on it?” The questions are paired with relevant vocabulary words, such as appliance, homesick, and neighbor. Next, the student is asked to paraphrase proverbs like the Vietnamese saying, “A good neighbor is a found treasure.” A second set of more complex and thought-provoking questions follows: “Would you rather put money in a home or in a bank? Why?” The chapter concludes with a homework assignment, “My dream home,” supplied as a reproducible form. Its questions include: “How many rooms does it have?” What makes this home special?” And the assignment also includes sidebars with suggestions for individual study. Select five adjectives (spacious, cozy) for your dream home. Appendices provide templates for role playing, reproducible forms for student presentations, an academic word list, and pronunciation assignments.
The book’s conversation starters are a boon for students and teachers. The open-ended and creative questions encourage students to think on their feet. They learn to transform the vocabulary and grammar they have learned into usable, natural conversation. And students should be grateful to depart from forgettable and useless old rote-learning chestnuts like “Where is the train station?” and “Do you have the yellow pencil?” Teachers will appreciate the text’s time-saving, prepackaged questions, the consistent template, and the relevant content, which can serve as a lesson plan guide or textbook.
The authors may be forgiven for fudging a bit on the elements that make this book germane to the Vietnamese student. There are a few pronunciation tips: “Open the mouth wider to speak English than Vietnamese. Speak slower. Pay attention to word endings.” And there are photos of Vietnamese people scattered throughout the sidebars.
This title is offered as a specific-market addition to the previous broad market textbook by the same co-authors, Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics. It addresses a market for which there are a limited number of available titles. It is an excellent teaching tool for the advanced Vietnamese student of English and a welcome entry into an under-served market.”
ForeWord Reviews, June 22, 2011
“Roth and Aberson return with the next installment of their Compelling Conversations series (Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics, 2007), presenting conversation topics, activity ideas and interesting quotes for Vietnamese students of the English language.
A combination textbook and workbook for ‘Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners,’ this book includes activities to execute with conversation partners or as part of a class, lists of vocabulary with clear definitions and proverbs and quotations revolving around each chapter’s theme. Some self-directed activities, such as documenting observations of other people’s speech patterns, are suggested in the margins. Specific chapter themes cover eating and drinking, making and keeping friends, exploring cities, talking about movies, school stories and bridging differences between strangers and cultures. The book’s appendix contains evaluation sheets for class presentations, interview sheets for student-stranger interactions and lists of vocabulary words without definitions (definitions are provided in the chapters themselves)…
The book has a number of strengths and the authors are veteran teachers whose experience is reflected in the book’s content. The conversation topics are useful and the proverbs, quotes and vocabulary are all appropriate for advanced Vietnamese EFL students.”
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