Compelling Conversations – Vietnam

Versatile Materials, Activities and Exercises

Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations for Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners includes:

  • 15 thematic chapters
  • Over 75 communicative activities
  • Partner, group, and class discussion activities to develop fluency
  • 15 targeted vocabulary lists to expand working vocabulary in social, professional, and academic contexts
  • 15 Paraphrasing exercises
  • For Advanced Vietnamese ELLOver 125 global proverbs to build intercultural understanding
  • 15 question writing exercises
  • 150 classic quotations to display eloquent language and develop critical thinking skills
  • Versatile material than can be adapted to multi-level listening and speaking classes
  • Critical thinking activities that develop vital academic skills for mainstream college courses
  • Discussion activities to build fluency and classroom speaking skills
  • 18 reproducible out-of-classroom and online assignments for homework
  • An alphabetized academic word list
  • 27 black-and-white photographs
  • Bibliography
  • 108 pages

This communicative, oral skills EFL/ESL textbook has been primarily designed for international high schools, community college/university English language programs, and adult education programs. We’re confident its focused communicative activities and natural language approach will make it a valued resource in your classroom.


"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."

Dan Dumitrache
October 2012


"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 Conversations establishes 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
September 2012
Read the Entire 4-Page Review Here


"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
Read the whole article here


"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."

Marilyn Berry
ForeWord Reviews, June 22, 2011

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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