Topics to Practice Conversation With ESL Students

Nearly every adult ESL student attempts to improve their ability…

Nearly every adult ESL student attempts to improve their ability to speak English with others. They arrive at the classroom with an advantage. They have lived through life.

Importance of Speaking in ESL

a typical US classroom with students wearing casual clothing.
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Students frequently perform more listening than speaking in foreign language classes. The native speaker, either the teacher or a recording, speaks phrases and tests their comprehension using paper-and-pencil activities, such as matching games.

The need for this type of training is critical, but research is increasingly showing that students must speak the language to learn it.

People tend to put a lot more effort into certain skills than others. While speaking is the skill most people would prefer to have, it is actually something they want to become good at. However, it is also the skill they practice the least.

One of the main reasons people do not practice speaking as much as other skills are that it isn’t nearly as convenient. Learning at home with a computer is great, but to practice speaking, you need our help.

In fact, taking a conversation in our mother tongue is something that is second nature to us. But computers, for all their brilliance, it’s one of the few things they can’t do right. Computers can solve many complex equations, remember mind-boggling amounts of data, and play chess better than world champions, but they can’t engage with you.

You may ask the virtual assistant on your phone to tell you a joke, but let’s face it, they’re often pretty lousy. You will need to talk to real humans to fully practice your speaking skills. While computers can’t really have engaging conversations with you, they can certainly help you find these wonderful conversational beings called humans.

ESL Conversation Topics to Break the Ice

Hobbies & Interests

Everyone has a hobby, and everyone loves to talk about it. Hobbies can also be passions, you know. Here are some questions to initiate a discussion in the classroom:

  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • What are your hobbies? How often do you do them?

Movies & Television

The subject of television is one of those topics that everyone has an opinion on. However, even though more and more shows and movies are watched on computers and tablets, television remains a topic that classes love to discuss.

TV will let you showcase native English forms and provide some great context before diving into discussion questions.

Listening to Music

Music is a passion of everyone, and most people feel very strong emotions toward it. Especially when it comes to the music, they love (or hate).


Many people work and have a lot to say about it. If you work around a third of your time, you might have plenty to say on that topic.


Food is possibly the most universal topic in the world, and everyone loves to discuss what they eat. As the vocabulary is usually relatively simple, this is also an excellent topic for beginners.

Frequently asked questions

Can questions for ESL?

  • Hold your breath for a moment?
  • Do you cook anything you find delicious?
  • Do you have a bicycle?
  • Can you swim?
  • What is their name when you meet new people?
  • Can you stand on your feet longer than 30 seconds?
  • Why do you need to write your name without looking at the paper?

What are some good English topics?

  • Gandhi Jayanti
  • World Health Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Labour Day
  • World Population Day
  • Ambedkar Jayanti
  • Human Rights Day
  • Independence Day

What is the best topic to discuss in class?

  • An effective government is democracy.
  • Tobacco smoking and vaping should only be banned.
  • It is recommended that the voting age be reduced to 16.
  • We should all be required to vote.
  • Animals should never be eaten by humans.
  • In general, girls are more under pressure than boys.
  • Give is better than receive.

How do you teach ESL conversations to adults?

  • Make a list of questions.
  • Ask your own questions.
  • Talk slowly, but don’t treat them like a kid.
  • Topics that are common, but ask for the student’s opinion.
  • Let silence hang, but know when to respond.
  • We can spell things out using the chat box or a white board.
  • Take notes

What questions should I ask ESL students?

  • Foods that you enjoy most?
  • You read the last book, what was it?
  • Do you like cooking?
  • Does your family have pets?
  • You’re married or single?
  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? Are they older or younger than you?
  • Is baseball your favorite sport?
  • Do you like cooking, swimming, etc?

What do you talk about in ESL?

  • Sleep
  • Television. There’s no doubt that everyone’s opinion is divided on television.
  • Hobbies. The majority of people have hobbies that they enjoy discussing with others.
  • First Dates
  • Risk
  • Time
  • Work
  • Music

What are good questions to ask students?

  • Do you have any favorite hobbies?
  • How do you choose your favorite television show?
  • What sort of activities do you enjoy during your free time?
  • Is there a favorite book in your house?
  • Do you have a favorite color?
  • Do you volunteer in your community?
  • Your hardest part of the week was what?
  • Can you tell me what movie you like?

What are some interesting topics to learn about?

  • Sustainable marketing
  • Roe v Wade
  • Autism
  • Biomes
  • Diets that are vegan and vegetarian.
  • Global warming
  • Terrorism
  • Freedom of speech

What are warm up questions?

  • Do you remember the worst job you ever had?
  • You can choose anyone as your imaginary friend. What is your choice, and why?
  • What would your superpower be and why would you do this?
  • Can you tell me what sport you would compete in if you were in the Olympics?
  • What is better businessman or woman?

What are the most interesting conversation topics?

  • Is there one thing that has been your favorite part of your day?
  • Have you ever tried to relax?
  • Tell me about you.
  • What book do you read right now?
  • What is your favorite thing about your hometown?
  • What was the last item you loved buying online?

What is good topic for speech?

Your education career should be focused on persuasive speech topics. What are the advantages of co-education or are there disadvantages?

What to talk about with advanced students?

  • Interior Design
  • Service Jobs
  • Misbehavior. How does the picture look?
  • Superstitions. Is there any superstitions about black cats?
  • Childhood trends
  • Entrepreneurship. This man’s job is what?
  • Animal Rights
  • Parenting

Are you busy ESL questions?

Are you busy or do you like to have an easy schedule? How do you manage your time?

How do I choose a discussion topic?

  • Get a list together with the class for the entire semester.
  • You should choose topics that allow multiple perspectives.
  • Students should select topics they have some familiarity with.
  • Don’t be afraid of controversial topics.

How do I teach ESL students to ask questions?

  • Asking the same questions back to you and/or to the next person.
  • Making them choose what to ask them from a list of options.
  • Making them think differently about those questions.
  • The ability for them to ask any questions they like.
Topics to Practice Conversation With ESL Students

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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