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The art of conversation, once considered the sign of a civilized individual, seems less common today. Yet we count the pleasures of sharing experiences, collecting news, and exchanging ideas one of the pleasures of life. These natural conversations provide information, encouragement, and pleasure.
Many people say that they are too busy to have long talks. Other people prefer to watch television, play computer games, or listen to the radio rather than talk to relatives and friends. Sometimes people feel too shy to speak to the people next to them. Many Americans, it seems to us, have forgotten how to hold good, deep conversations, or even a friendly chat with neighbors. we suspect this lack of real communication lessens their joy.
Of course, people learning English as a second, third, or fourth language face even more barriers. English remains a strange, confusing, difficult, and misspelled language - and it's easy to feel uncomfortable when speaking in this new tongue.
Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics addresses these issues for both native and non-native English speakers. The focus is on learning by doing, and making good mistakes. (Good mistakes are mistakes that are natural, and we can learn from so we can make different and better "good mistakes" next time.) Each chapter includes 30 or more questions, 10 or more focused vocabulary words, a few proverbs, and 10 or more quotations. Although designed for advanced students (and English teachers!), intermediate ESL students will find plenty of material to use and can benefit from exposure to the new words, phrases, and questions.
Each of the 45 chapters focuses on a common 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. This scaffolding makes the conversation exercises suitable for a wider range of English language learners.
Real conversations naturally evolve. Both native and non-native English speakers will find the questions allow one to share experiences, exchange insights, and reflect on life. Therefore, the questions include conversation starters and many clarification questions. These are not artificial "look, see, do" scripts to rigidly follow. The goal remains to create dialogue, increase understanding of other people, and gently push you toward using a richer vocabulary in English conversation. This flexibility has also made Compelling Conversations popular with online tutors who teach English conversation over the internet.
Many of these conversation worksheets were originally developed for an Advanced ESL Conversation class that met 4 hours a week, 15 weeks a semester at Santa Monica Community College. (Other worksheets came from tutoring private students in conversation and supplementing regular advanced adult education ESL classes .) The original "conversation" textbook offered little more than vocabulary lists, cost too much, and avoided any topic that might cause any controversy. Several lessons talked about the weather, colors, and very light topics. So the boring, expensive book, was dropped and conversation worksheets with 30 or so questions on set topics were created to generate interesting, quality conversations and memorable discussions.
Many ESL students would contribute proverbs during our classroom discussions and partner interviews. Proverbs, sayings, and idioms can be very useful in daily life. Often similar ideas, like "the sky is always blue somewhere." can be found across cultures. Proverbs can point out some universal aspects of the human experience - in 21st century America, 19th century England, 17th century Paris - 4th century China, or 1st century Rome.
Proverbs will also often contradict each other, yet the trick is to use the right proverb at the right time in the right situation. Sometimes it's good to know, and even hold, two opposite ideas. "Where you stand, depends on where you sit." Therefore, each chapter includes a proverb section. Pithy proverbs are also easy to remember, use vivid language, and often short words. As a result, we can often memorize them – even with an evolving vocabulary – and display our intelligence and sophistication in conversations.
This collection of proverbs and quotations also includes many insights from religious leaders and philosophers that go back even more than 2,000 years such as Buddha, Confucius, Aristotle, and the Biblical prophets. Again, bringing classical wisdom into the ESL/EFL classrooms deepens discussions.
These quotations remind us that some conversations have spanned centuries and cultures. The selected quotations present a wide range of ideas, beliefs, and perspectives. Some quotations might make you laugh, some might make you sigh, and a few might even annoy you. This collection is a free speech zone. Join the conversation. Share your ideas.
Including classic quotations also helps preserve the insights and comments of well-known and significant cultural figures. This helps us escape the too-common delusion that the world began where we were born and helps provide perspective. Sometimes knowing the speaker and historical era provides another way of looking at modern pleasures and problems.
Practice may not make perfection, speaking English every day – especially in meaning conversations - does lead to significant progress. Compelling Conversations gives you the tools and phrases to talk more and listen better to friends and strangers in English . So go ahead. Ask more. Know more. Share more. And create your own Compelling Conversations!