Compelling American Conversations

Compelling American Conversations: Questions and Quotations for intermediate American English language learners explicitly emphasizes American language, culture, and democratic values.

The primary audience is newcomers to the United States, recent and not-so-recent immigrants, who may be studying at an American high school, adult school, community college, or university. Focused on the needs and aspirations of intermediate English language learners, the text shows a variety of ways to create and sustain authentic conversations with a developing English vocabulary. Compelling American Conversations challenges intermediate English language learners to reflect and speak about their lives and experiences on 15 topics in class and in English. Knowing English should include the ability to speak English.

Higher Fluency Standards For American ELL Students

Therefore, we deliberately chose to emphasize speaking skills and fluency in Compelling American Conversations. Each chapter includes:

  • Two sets of partner interview questions on each topic
  • Discussion activities to explore, explain, and clarify
  • Search and share online activities where students select materials on specific topics, summarize and evaluate the video/article, and introduce to small groups of classmates.

Speaking English - in and out of the Classroom

We also include academic vocabulary and more philosophical questions because American immigrants deserve the same level of sophisticated materials which international English as Foreign Language (EFL) students enjoy in the stronger international high schools.

  • Focused vocabulary for both practical and academic purposes
  • Paraphrasing American proverbs – and others from around the world
  • "Agree/Disagree and explain" reaction exercises to classic and modern quotations often used to prepare for TOEFL and IELTS exams
  • Inclusion of the Academic Word List

From our perspective, there is something profoundly disturbing in dumbing down of curriculum materials for English language learners in the United States. Compelling American Conversations seeks to introduce higher expectations for verbal skills and more authentic materials and relevant topics to the intermediate ELL and ESL classrooms. Students should be able to not only listen and understand, but speak and be understood.

Finally, the authors hope American English language learners begin asking more questions in classes, speak more in their workplaces, and create their own compelling American conversations – outside ESL classrooms.



"Teaching English as a second language (ESL) can be a demanding profession. Unlike most other subjects such as mathematics, history, or even English for native speakers, successful ESL instruction requires teachers to not simply rely on the knowledge gained in their own academic preparation but to also learn to think in many ways like their students. For example, certain usage norms that the native speaker learns growing up and takes for granted are rarely fully explained in textbooks and often require the teacher to mentally step outside of his or her cultural upbringing when analyzing and discussing them. Finding curriculum which can help the instructor in this challenging process by getting students to speak more and thus reveal any errors is difficult, but the authors' newest book makes that task a lot easier."
"One of the reasons this book is so useful is due to the authors' careful attention to the feedback they received from teachers and students regarding one of their previous works. Like all good instructors they have modified their curriculum to better serve their readers, and their extra effort has resulted in one of the best ESL textbooks on the market today for non-beginners. For instance, while the average curriculum often focuses primarily on grammar, usage, and vocabulary building at the expense of realistic conversation tools, even for intermediate and advanced students, the authors have flipped this approach on its head, concentrating instead on thought-provoking questions and discussion starters that cajole students into taking risks and talking more, thus giving instructors better opportunities to correct errors as they occur. There will never be an ESL textbook that will give every student the confidence to converse, but this one makes a valiant attempt."


John Roper
U.S. Review of Books

…fun and stimulating

"How can so much learning be in just one book? Compelling American Conversations is all that an ESL teacher or student needs to use in their course. With clear, easy to follow directions, students learn necessary details about American English and culture, practice critical thinking, expand vocabulary and idioms, as they converse in real. natural adult English. Included in the Search and Share component are marvelous lessons on using the Internet. An extra bonus is that any of the conversations, quotes, etc. can be used as writing prompts. The book is fun and stimulating and, fortunately, very accessible for the intermediate learner."

Planaria Price
author Life in the USA and
Realistically Speaking


...a gold mine

"For English teachers who wish to help students improve their communication skills, Compelling American Conversations (like Roth’s previous book, Compelling Conversations), is a gold mine—a rich, stimulating learning environment providing virtually endless possibilities for lively conversation which will enhance students’ communications skills quickly and enjoyably. While the focus is on conversation, Compelling American Conversations is much more than a list of conversation starters—it’s an excellent vocabulary book as well. The combination of compelling conversation topics, which students enjoy; new vocabulary, which students crave; and brief grammar reminders, which students need, will get students talking and learning! Compelling American Conversationsis the book I needed when I was a conversation group organizer and is the book I highly recommend to any English teacher in a similar position today."

Carl W. Hart
Author of Rocket English Grammar and The Ultimate Phrasal Verb Book


… I strongly recommend this book

"Compelling American Conversations fills an important gap in adult ESL where speaking skills often receive too little attention. Students want to speak more English in classes, and learn how to have real conversations with their American neighbors and co-workers. Compelling American Conversations not only gives adult ESL students many chances to discuss their lives in their English classroom, but it helps immigrants create quality conversations in English outside of school too. I strongly recommend this book for English teachers looking to add more conversation and online exercises to their intermediate ESL classes."

Luis Coloma
Adult ESL specialist,

Profile Photo Eric H. Roth

About Eric H. Roth

Eric H. Roth teaches international graduate students the pleasures and perils of writing and speaking in English at the University of Southern California (USC), and holds the title of Master Lecturer. He also consults English language schools on communicative methods.

Given a full scholarship as a Lilly Scholar, Roth studied philosophy at Wabash College, and received his MA from the New School (1988). He proceeded to write newsletters and a few speeches for Congressman Steven Solarz (D-NY) for two years. Increasingly disillusioned with American politics, he left NYC and traveled for several months before deciding to relocate to Los Angeles. He soon starting reading scripts for the Nicholl Foundation, and reviewing history books and local plays for Los Angeles publications.

In 1992, he taught his first English as a Second Language class at a refugee center for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and became hooked. Since then, Roth has taught English to high school, community college, adult, and university students from five continents and over 60 countries. He has also taught writing courses in Spain (2007) and France (2008), and directed an elite private high school in Vietnam (2009) during summer breaks.

Roth co-authored Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics in 2007 to help English language learners increase their fluency in English. Recommended by English Teaching Professional magazine, the advanced ESL textbook has been used by English language learners and English teachers in over 50 countries. Since then, he and his co-author Toni Aberson have added two new titles to the series: Compelling American Conversations (2012) with Hal Bogotch and Compelling Conversations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners (2011). Roth also edited Aberson's latest book titled: It's a Breeze: 42 Lively Lessons on American Idioms that introduces common expressions to high-beginning students.

Roth and Aberson also co-author a monthly column in Easy English Times, an adult literacy newspaper, that has published "Instant Conversation Activities" based on their conversation textbooks since 2008.

A member of the USC faculty since 2003, Roth is a member of numerous professional Organizations including: California Association of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CATESOL); the International Communication Association (ICA); the International Professors Project (IPP); and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Roth has given several CATESOL and TESOL conference presentations and led many teacher training workshops. He has recently expanded the micro-sized Chimayo Press to help friends publish books for global souls and sophisticated English language learners.

A collector of postcards, old and/or odd books, and travel experiences, Roth has enjoyed conversations in 40 countries so far. He looks to seeing more of our magnificent world in the coming years.

All books by Eric H. Roth

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