ESL Conversation and Discussion Archives

Advanced Easter Conversation Discussion Prompts

happy easterThese conversation prompts are perfect for an Easter themed discussion lesson. The questions are easily scaled to any level of speaker and they allow all to be involved, whether in small or large groups or presentation format. Happy Easter! 

 1) Do you celebrate Easter in your country?

2) How do you celebrate Easter in your country?

3) Do you have any special family traditions?

4) What do you do to celebrate it?

5) Do you consider it an important holiday? Why or why not?

6) Do you think it used to be more important than it is today? Why or why not?

7) What are the 40 days before Easter called?

What special activities or events happen in those 40 days?

Do you observe these 40 days?

8) What is the Sunday before Easter called?

What is it remembering?

9) What is the Friday before Easter called?

What is it remembering?

10) Do you think most people consider Easter time a religious celebration? Why or why not?

11) How do you think the Easter bunny and hiding colored eggs came to be part of the celebration of Easter?

12) Do you think it is wrong to associate religious holidays with other types of things, like Easter and the bunny? Christmas and Santa Claus?

 

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Restaurant ESL

Taking your young adult ESL learners to a restaurant, or at least talking about restaurant culture, is an important step in acclimatizing them to life in a new country through a very “typical” English experience. As you probably know, restaurants are the perfect way to introduce a number of different subjects to your students:

• Food
• Table etiquette
• Manners
• Asking directions
• Common restaurant expressions

Exposing students to the above subjects is an important step in building confidence for life outside the home. Restaurant experiences are often spontaneous, so they require students to be ready and comfortable with the language.  James from Engvid provides several great teaching points you can incorporate into your classroom lesson or class trip to a restaurant. Here are some things he highlights:

• The differences between fast food, casual and fine dining
• Using “May I have…” or “Can I have…”
• The meaning of “Party of” or “Table of/for”
• What’s in a menu?
• What is a drink order?
• The differences between appetizers, main course, pls sides or substitutes, and dessert
• What is a “Special”
• Paying for the meal; cheques, bills, taxes and tips
Check it out below!

While “role plays” have their place in the classroom, there’s nothing better than experience to really cement something in a students mind. That’s why taking them out to a restaurant for the real thing is invaluable.

Go over the above points during one or two classes and get your students comfortable. Then take them out for a meal and coach them through the experience. They’ll be nervous and make mistakes, but with you there they’ll begin to build up their confidence.

Good luck and good teaching.

Question: What is your favourite kind of restaurant? (Leave a comment below):

Valentine’s Conversation Starters

  • What is Valentine’s Day?
  • What is the origin of Valentine’s Day? (Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?)
  • Is Valentine’s Day celebrated in your country?
  • How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in the United States?
  • How do children celebrate Valentine’s Day in school?
  • What do you usually do for Valentine’s Day?
  • What do you plan on doing this Valentine’s Day?
  • Do you make any special food for Valentine’s Day?
  • On Valentine’s Day, is it more common for men to give gifts to women or for women to give gifts to men?
  • What are common gifts that people give on Valentine’s Day?
  • What is your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?
  • What is your Valentine’s dream? If you could do anything or receive anything on Valentine’s Day, what would it be?
  • Do you know anyone that has become engaged or married on Valentine’s Day?
  • Would you want to get engaged or married on a holiday? Why or why not?
  • What is a “valentine”?
  • Have you ever gotten a valentine or love letter on Valentine’s Day?
  • What is Valentine’s Day like for singles? (What do single people do on Valentine’s Day?)
  • Do you think Valentine’s Day makes single people feel lonely?
  • Do you think Valentine’s Day is too commercial or consumerist?
  • What are common gifts that people give?
  • Do you know anyone that has gotten engaged or married on Valentine’s Day?

PDF File

Winter Conversation Starters

How does winter differ from other seasons?

What articles of clothing do people wear to help them stay warm during the winter?

What sports do people participate in during the winter?

Do you enjoy winter sports? If so, what’s your favorite?

What are some other popular winter activities?

What’s your favorite winter activity?

Which do you enjoy more, winter vacation or summer vacation? Why?

Do you like winter? Why or why not?

What’s your favorite season? Why?

Would you prefer to be in a snowstorm or a thunderstorm? Why?

What is your favorite winter holiday? Why?

Do you like snow? Why or why not?

PDF File

Saudi Arabia: Breaking the Curse of Black Gold.

Many years ago, the chairman of the First City Bank of Texas was visiting the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The topic of discussion was economics. The chairman asked the crown prince where he would prefer to live: a large country with a temperate climate, pristine peninsulas, islands, lush vegetation and abundant natural resources or a small country with no natural resources, sparse vegetation and an inhospitable climate.

The crown prince said – ‘the first, of course.’ ‘Well,’ said the chairman, ‘then you would be living in Mexico not Singapore.’

The crown prince nodded sagely before muttering ‘people’.

Indeed – people or the stock of human capital, makes GDP per capita higher in Singapore than the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. And this was perhaps the final thought that Dr Mohamed A. Ramady, associate professor of finance & economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, wanted to leave with his audience in his first lecture presented on Saturday 21 st January in the main auditorium of Al Yamamah College, Riyadh.

Titled ‘The Saudi Arabian Economy: An Overview’, the two hour lecture touched on many issues including privatization, the financial markets, WTO membership and globalization, the Saudi Riyal, education & training and future challenges and opportunities.

The lecture also highlighted the significant contribution Saudi women make in investments in the Saudi economy: 35% of bank accounts, 20% of corporate shares, 15% of private companies, 10% of real estate and 62 billion in bank deposits – in spite of longstanding social, institutional and legal barriers.

Publicly, women are also playing a more important role in the Saudi economy. The small economic delegation that accompanied King Abdullah to China recently consisted of female Saudi economists. According to Dr. Ramady, political observers in the kingdom have interpreted images of the women, broadcast on the national Saudi channel 1, as a sign of the growing trend towards the political, economic and social enfranchisement of women in Saudi Arabia. Of course, any change would be done in accordance with Islamic principles.

While there is no sign of the nearly 2 million barrels per day output that makes Saudi Arabia the world’s oil warehouse abating, Dr Ramady was keen to point out how oil dependency was influencing the type of society Saudi Arabia has become.

Some of the challenges that face the Saudi economy today include: a mismatch between the needs of private industry and the education & training of graduates, the volatility of the Saudi share market and its impact on consumer confidence, the restrained implementation of the Saudization program, privatization which is paternalistic and limited to 30%, low direct foreign investment in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Riyal and domestic monetary policy influenced by fluctuations in the US Dollar.

“So rich yet so poor” is a catch-cry often used to describe Saudi Arabia – rich in natural resources and yet poor in its capital stock of people. And people do make a difference. According to Dr. Ramady, per capita income in Saudi has not risen in the recent past and despite efforts to diversify the economy the country is still dependent on oil.

While the recent ascension of Saudi Arabia into the WTO has helped the government to focus on economic reforms to modernize the economy, Saudi Arabia is still regarded as a high-security risk by the international community. In fact, in a recent business environment rating Saudi Arabia was ranked 51 compared with the UAE at 13.

Wasta (nepotism) still has more currency in Saudi Arabia than professional or technical wherewithal. Most businesses are family oriented with a top-down, pyramid-shaped management hierarchy where capital raisings are internal, competition is with family members and accounts are largely unaudited. It was no surprise that the recent precipitous fall in the Saudi stock market index from 21,000 to 7,200 sparked suicides, disappearances and family disintegration.

Typically, a Saudi family business will have 3 sets of balance sheets: the Arthur Anderson accounts (largely meaningless), the tax department accounts (showing a loss, of course) and those accounts recorded by hand in ink stored in the family safe. According to Dr Ramady, what is needed for reform of the Saudi business sector is a larger public shareholder base, accountability and transparency – all of which would normally come with a public listing.

When Margaret Thatcher started selling off public assets in the 1970s she was using economics to achieve political goals. A middle class was created holding shares in public utilities and state assets. This made them stakeholders in the welfare of the country and it was hoped they would behave accordingly.

Similarly, an emerging Saudi middle class empowered with share capital in state assets and utilities would revolutionize Saudi business ethics and the prevailing two-tier class system of Saudi nationals and foreign national employees.

Presently, Dr Ramady noted, commercial transactions are driven by a win/lose mentality where, in a negotiation, it is expected that one party’s gain is the other party’s loss. This tribal model of business would change with the advent of widespread public share ownership amongst the middle class and the creation of wealth and its dividends from astute investment strategies and decisions.

With the increasing affluence and mobility of a middle class the rapid growth of small and medium-sized businesses will come. In the USA, this sector accounts for 80% of the economy. In Saudi Arabia, it is expected that with the introduction of international standards, transparency, competition and the employment of Saudi women (represented as 55% of the population) the small and medium business sector could become the powerhouse of the new economy.

The future of the Saudi economy depends on how effectively the country diversifies away from its oil addiction, how well it empowers regional economies in the kingdom through targeted budget allocations and to what extent it fosters regional self-determination through municipal elections.

The climate for change is favorable: Saudi Arabia has stability in the political continuity of its traditions and laws of succession amongst the royal family. Moreover, the recent ascension of Saudi Arabia into WTO membership accelerates the process of economic reform. However, Dr Ramady cautions, change must be consensual.

Towards the end of his presentation, Dr Ramady related a story about one of his students. Having lost 3 million Riyals in the recent Saudi stock market crash (the market was overvalued with some returns as high as 150%), the 19-year old was almost inconsolable. After giving the student the benefit of his experience in these matters, Dr Ramady reflected that without a crash another generation of young Saudis would have been lost to the curse of black gold.

Moving from inheriting wealth to creating it, in a knowledge-based economy, is the challenge of modern Saudi Arabia.

Harry Nicolaides

Cunning Linguists…

The arrest of John Karr for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey has raised questions about the types of expatriates working in Thailand’s education system.

Harry Nicolaides, a Melbourne-born teacher who has taught English in Thailand, reveals that he sometimes felt he was sharing an office with Hannibal Lector.

What do a disgraced former US state senator, an octogenarian Nazi sympathizer and an Arizona highway patrol officer have in common? They are all teaching English in Thailand of course. The profession of teaching English in Asia attracts the strangest people. The flotsam and jetsam of the West, many of these ne’er-do-wells wash up on the shoreline of the Third World looking to reinvent themselves like the Count of Monte Cristo or to champion a cause celebre like Lawrence of Arabia. Some are undischarged bankrupts fleeing creditors, fugitives from justice, disgraced or convicted malcontents, religious missionaries, errant husbands, asylum-seekers (and those recently discharged from asylums), crusaders and occasionally teachers – with fake university degrees, of course. This is the state of the industry throughout Thailand. And sometimes, you can find yourself sharing an office with Hannibal Lector.

The process of screening applicants for teaching appointments in Thailand has always been open to abuse, exploitation and identity fraud. While most educational institutions employ foreign nationals from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US without checking the bona fides of academic credentials, going overseas to work has also been a convenient way to escape the indiscretions and convictions of a former life in the West. As English is the new lingua franca of a global world there is a burgeoning demand for native English speakers to teach English in educational institutions at all levels across Thailand. The interview and selection process is perfunctory and typically is the responsibility of non-native speakers and so anyone who looks like a teacher in what is largely a presentation culture is assured of employment. While it is well known that thousands of reproduction artworks of European masters are created annually in Thailand, fake university and college degrees may also be bought in Kao Sarn Road Bangkok.

In the past century when Christendom was carried like a torch to enlighten the dark continents, missionaries and teachers were discovered looting national treasures, excavating and smuggling archaeological artifacts, exploiting the indigenous population or establishing private kingdoms with themselves as the self-appointed monarchs. During times of military conflict some teachers were even commissioned as intelligence operatives or became correspondents from besieged cities or nations erupting in civil unrest. Today, with an absence of such interesting opportunities, English language teachers abroad have turned to waging their own war against professional colleagues, exerting their own petty tyrannies on students, exploring a malignant neuroses, indulging a private obsession or simply experiencing the full dress rehearsal of a sordid sexual fetish.

Just like the former, US state senator who was repeatedly caught and convicted for drunk driving and beating his girlfriend. When he carried a loaded revolver into the state legislature he was finally expelled from office. At the height of his power, white racist supremacist and militia members rallied at his demagogic speeches against minorities and welfare recipients but most recently found himself teaching English at university in Thailand. He was also responsible for pushing through a US state senate a highly controversial bill to introduce and maintain a public database of previously convicted sex offenders. I met him in a notorious go-go bar in Phuket. It was the quip about the human race being a plague on the earth and that only through a systematic program of racial purification would we survive as a species that made me realise he was not on a mercy mission in the Third World. He was last seen teaching a transsexual prostitute to sing the Star Spangled Banner in an area notorious for homosexual encounters with young men who had had a sex change operation in Bangkok.

Then there was the teacher at a prominent language school in Phuket who was recently exposed as a confidante to Adolf Hitler’s personal radiologist. At 85, he was old enough to have been around during the Third Reich and his imperious gait was chillingly resonant of high rank. He spoke German, Greek, Italian, Thai, French and English fluently but his speciality was to craft letters for bar girls consisting of lies and half-truths to beguile mostly male Caucasian tourists out of their money. I was once privy to a meeting he thought was private and observed him perform the customary Nazi military salute when he greeted a German friend. At first, I thought it was moment of historical parody but then observed both men deliver the same Nazi salute to each other with triumphant, choreographed precision at their farewell. He still teaches English today helping young bar girls conjugate irregular verbs and writes letters while receiving an aged pension from the Italian government.

There was another teacher – an American, former Arizona patrol officer who while working in Thailand started to exhibit repressed aggression towards his students. His violent outbursts and confrontations involved minor infractions of university regulations. He became obsessed with thwarting students from gaining unfair advantage by cheating and spent hundreds of hours devising examinations that would challenge the ingenuity of students to anticipate the content of examination papers. When a small cluster of student papers were found to have similar results he launched a major investigation into the unlikely correlation. He conducted a statistical analysis of the results involving averages, probability and distribution graphs. Remarking all 250-exam papers, he concluded that a group of students must have stolen an exam paper prior to the exam day. He insisted, against the judgment of other teachers, to hold the exam again. The results in the second examination were the same. The students cheated again.

As a final indictment of the susceptibility of the Thai education system to fraud consider the following experience. A friend from Australia was visiting Thailand as a tourist. I managed to convince him to assume my identity for the first lecture I was to deliver to 120 students in a course of social psychology at the university where I was working. The exercise was designed to show students how vulnerable people are to appearance and presentation especially so-called experts with impressive credentials. We had my friend’s imposing 6’4 physique clothed in a fine suit and tie beautifully fashioned in the finest bespoke tradition of Bangkok’s 24-hour tailors. We gave him an impressive resume – PhD Cambridge University, Chairman of research committee at Oxford University, author of two definitive textbooks in the field – all of which loomed large behind him on a massive cinema-sized screen in a PowerPoint format while Garry spoke authoritatively about nothing for some time. The students paid meticulous attention and wrote copious lecture notes on the rambling dissertation. After an hour when I arrived dressed casually in shorts and t-shirt and introduced myself as the real course lecturer, the students dismissed me as a loony intruder. After all, I did not look like a teacher. That is what matters in Thailand – the appearance of truth, created by a tailor’s scissors, an artist’s brushstroke or a surgeon’s knife.

Winter Olympics Sports and Events:

Winter Olympic Medals

There are fifteen winter Olympic sports and within each sport there are various events. This is a vocabulary builder designed to help you  understand more about the wonderful winter Olympics.

 

 

 

 

  1. Alpine skiing:  This is the sport of downhill skiing; as opposed to cross country skiing (also called Nordic).  This sport consists of the following alpine skiing events: slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and the downhill. You Alpine skiingcan learn more about alpine skiing in this lesson (alpine skiing at the Olympics)
  2. Biathlon:  In the Olympics, the Biathlon is the sport which combines rifle shooting and cross country skiing.

    biathlon

    biathlon

  3. Bobsleigh: This is a sport in which teams of two or four people ride very fast down an ice track in the sled. The ice track goes down the side of a mountain, and it is full of twists and turns.
  4. Cross country skiing:  This sport is a Nordic style of skiing (boots are not fixed to the skis, only the toe portion is) which involves long distance, kind of like long distance running, but on Nordic skis.
  5. Curling: This is played by sliding large stones across the ice surface toward the circle on the other end. Each team wants to get the stones closest to the center of the circle, and knock the other team’s stones away from the center.

    curling

    curling

  6. Figure skating: Involves performing skilled skating routines on ice. There are four main events in the Olympics which are, men’s single, ladies single, pairs and ice dancing.

    figure skater

    figure skater

  7. Freestyle skiing: This exciting sport originally included skiing moguls, aerials and ballet skiing.  It now includes several events, and no longer includes ballet skiing. The events in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi will include, moguls, aerials, ski cross, boarder cross, ski half pipe and snowboard half pipe and slope style.

    Freestyle Aerials - upside down twist

    Freestyle Aerials

  8. Ice hockey: This is a sport played on ice. It involves two teams who use a hockey stick to shoot a puck into the net of the other team. 
  9. Luge: This is similar in concept to the bobsleigh, in that it is a small sled which slides down an ice track with twists and turns. These can be one or two person sleds. This is known as the fastest and most dangerous of the sliding sports in the Olympics. 
  10. Nordic combined: This sport combines cross country and ski jumping. 
  11. Short track speed skating: This is a team sport of 4 or 6 skaters which skate on a short oval ice track. 
  12. Skeleton: this is similar to the luge sled, but it is for one person. The athlete slides down on his stomach, and head first, unlike the other sliding sports in which they go feet first. 
  13. Ski jumping: This is where skiers, on Nordic type skis, slide down a large, and log ramp and jump into the air. 

    ski jumping

    ski jumping

  14. Snowboard: This sport involves riding down a hill on a snowboard. It is much like alpine skiing, but instead of skis, on a snowboard. There are freestyle events, snowboard cross, big mountain and downhill events as well. 
  15. Speed skating: This is long distance skating, much like marathon on ice. There are various events, but in general they are much longer tracks (400 meter track) and long distance events. 

    speed skating

    speed skating

Review Questions:

  1. What are the three sliding events?
  2. What sports are comparable to long distance running?
  3. What is the fastest skiing event?
  4. What is the most dangerous sliding event?

Internet Research questions:

  1. In what city / country are the 2014 Winter Olympics?
  2. Who won the men’s freestyle moguls event in the 2010 Winter Olympics?
  3. Who is “Eddie the Eagle” and what is his sport?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your favourite winter Olympic event (and if course, why)?
  2. Do the Winter Olympics help to promote world peace / relations?
  3. What benefits do the Olympics games provide to athletes?
  4. Do you think professionals should participate in the Olympic Games?

Winter Olympics ESL Vocabulary & Conversation Starter (Winter Olympics)

Beginner Olympic English – This is an easy conversation model starter activity based on the Winter Olympics theme.

  • Jon: Did you watch the Winter Olympics on TV?
  • Teri: Yes, I did. My favourite event is figure skating. What is your favourite event?
  • Jon: My favourite event is freestyle skiing.

*note: in Canadian English favourite is often spelled with ‘ou’ – favourite. However, it is also correct to spell it ‘favorite’, as spelled in the USA.

Intermediate/Advanced Olympic English – This is a slightly more advanced model of a conversation starter activity based on the Winter Olympics theme.

  • Evan: Hi Zoe, what do you think about the bob-sledding event?
  • Zoe: I think it is exciting, but dangerous. Do you like the biathlon?
  • Evan: It looks very hard, but boring to watch.

*When using this sentence pattern, be sure you choose word pairs that work together well. Opposite words will not work in this pattern usually. For example, something cannot be both, ‘exciting’ and ‘boring’.

**add qualifiers: a qualifier can indicate your opinion on something you say that could be open to challenge by someone else. The last line said boring (to watch). This qualification is used in the second sentence because not everyone would agree that biathlon is boring, in every circumstance. If you are an athlete doing the biathlon maybe it is exciting, but if you are watching it, your opinion is that it is boring.

Qualifiers can also be used as follows: It is exciting, but looks dangerous. (in this case, the speaker appears to like it, however, due to it being dangerous, would not likely want to try, or participate).

Some of the best advice you’ll receive today.

(This requires advanced listening and comprehension skills).

Share This Link with others on Facebook

1. What does the speaker mean by the word, “closet”? What is a ‘closet’?
2. What are some examples of a ‘hard conversation’?
3. What does it mean to be “real” with someone?
4. What are some ‘hard closets to come out of’?
5. Can you think of some people in the news who have experienced some ‘hard times’?
6. What does it mean to stay in your closet?
7. What are some of the risks of staying in your closet according to the video?
8. What are the 3 steps to come out of the closet and explain how to do each.
9. Do you have a ‘closet’ to come out of? Consider if you are ready.

Topic: Being able to face your fears and make admissions and state truths about yourself you held inside.

Keywords: face your fears, coming out of the closet, acceptance, self love

Click on Video and Listen:

Thanksgiving is a wonderful Fall holiday celebrated in North America (Canada and the USA).  However, although very similar in how it is celebrated, it is celebrated on different days in Canada and the USA. We hope that this Thanksgiving ESL Lesson will help you to enjoy this holiday and learn at the same time.

This is a list of common vocabulary used for the Thanksgiving theme. ESL teachers and students can use this as a warm up or backdrop for further ESL lessons and activities about the Thanksgiving ESL theme, an enjoyable ESL themes to teach. Printable PDF of this Halloween ESL lesson

Thanksgiving is on different days in Canada and the USA. In Canada, thanksgiving is on the 2 nd Monday in October every year, while in the USA it is on the 4 th Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving VocabularyThanksgiving is the day reserved to give “Thanks” for what we have. Traditionally, the purpose was because when the pilgrims came to the “new world” to start their new lives, they depended on the earth for their food. They planted vegetables and raised crops and animals for food such as turkeys, chickens, cows, etc.

In order to pay respect to the ‘creator’, “God”, they celebrated thanksgiving for the good harvest. This type of holiday is celebrated in many countries. In South Korea they have “chusok” which is a harvest festival and also happens in the early fall in Korea.

New world: this is how North America was described by those settlers from Europe, also known as the pioneers and pilgrims, because it was a new world compared to the very populated Europe.

Pilgrim: these were the first Europeans to come to the new world to settle and start new lives. The aboriginal people, or first nations people were already here of course and they and the pilgrims learned from each other and traded goods and services with each other.

Turkey Dinner: traditionally and today still, we all look forward to a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving. It is delicious and served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato, gravy, vegetables and pumpkin pie for dessert. After we eat our turkey dinner we are always tired because we ate too much and because turkey makes people sleepy.

Fall /Autumn: this is the season in which Thanksgiving takes place. The leaves change colour and are very pretty in autumn.

Pumpkin Pie: this is a common dessert at thanksgiving. It is delicious and made from pumpkins.

Stuffing: this is a potato, bread, sage and other spice combination which is usually put in the turkey while it is cooking. It is really delicious and has lots of good flavour, it is one of the best parts of the dinner because we only have it on the special occasions when we have turkey.

Mashed Potatoes: potatoes which are boiled and smashed and mixed with a little milk, salt and butter are called mashed potatoes. To mash means to crush and mix.

Gravy: this is a fatty sauce which is often made after the turkey is cooked and some people like to put on potatoes and turkey. It isn’t very healthy, in spite of its good taste, luckily people only have it on occasion and in little portions.

Cranberry sauce: sweet sauce or jelly made from boiled cranberries. It is red in colour and put on turkey, potatoes and stuffing. Most turkey dinners have cranberry sauce served together.

Questions:

  • What/who are you thankful for?
  • Example: I am thankful for my parents, they work so hard and care for me and my brother so much. I am also thankful for all of the nice food we can eat everyday, I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the same. I am thankful for my health and happiness. Etc..
  • What is a pilgrim?
  • What does it mean to settle? (note – to settle within the meaning of this lesson, i.e. what the pilgrims and pioneers did).
  • Do you eat turkey dinner in your country? When?
  • Do you have a holiday similar to thanksgiving? Tell me about it.
  • What special food do you eat on holidays?
  • What other holidays do North Americans eat turkey on?
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