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The art of conversation, once considered the sign of a civilized individual, seems less common today. Yet I treasure the moments of sharing experiences, collecting news, and exchanging ideas. I make a point of knowing my neighbors, allowing casual greetings to become long conversations, and making time to explore the feelings and perceptions of friends and relatives in depth. These natural conversations provide information, encouragement, laughs, and pleasure.
Life today often seems very hectic. Who has time for long lunches and civilized conversations? Yet accepting this notion cheats us and denies our responsibility for our choices. We can choose to watch television programs, play computer games, or listen to the radio rather than talk to relatives and friends. It’s a choice.
The internet, a modern wonder, provides another way to find ideas, explore possibilities, and connect with friends. Many find surfing the internet easier, even better than having actual conversations. Sometimes international students also feel too shy to speak to the people next to them. Many Americans, it seems to me, have forgotten how to hold good, deep conversations, or even a friendly chat on the phone. I suspect this lack of real communication lessens their daily joy.
Of course, adult students, immigrant workers, and other people learning English as a second, third, or fourth language face even more barriers to a satisfying conversation in English. First, English remains a confusing, difficult, and strange language. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when speaking in this new tongue.
What questions do I ask? How can I keep a conversation going? What vocabulary words are needed? How do I show agreement, or disagreement, in a lively, yet polite way? How can I share my experiences in a clear manner? How can I have better, more engaging conversations in English?
Compelling Conversations – Vietnam: Speaking Exercises for Vietnamese Learners of Englishand Quotations on Timeless Topics addresses these issues for both native and non-native speakers. The focus is on learning by doing, and making good mistakes. (Good mistakes, by the way, are natural mistakes that help us learn so we can make different and better “good mistakes” next time.) Each of the 45 chapters includes 30 or more questions, 10 or more targeted vocabulary words, a few proverbs, and 10 or more quotations. Although designed for advanced students, intermediate ESL students will find plenty of material to use and can benefit from exposure to the new words, phrases, and questions.
Each chapter focuses on a promising conversation topic. The questions allow the reader to practice exchanging experiences and ideas in a natural style. You can add questions, skip questions, and move on to related topics. Each chapter begins with easier questions and moves on to questions that are more abstract.
Both native English speakers and English language learners will find the questions allow one to share experiences, exchange insights, and reflect on life. The questions are conversation starters, and not scripts to follow. The goal remains to create a real dialogue, increase your understanding of your classmates, and gently push you toward using a richer vocabulary in your English conversations. Further, the engaging material allows ESL students to recycle material and use the questions outside of English language classrooms. Students learn by doing, and discover they can create compelling conversations in English!
Ask more. Know more. Speak more.
Create Compelling Conversations.