Conversation Topics for ESL Class

Written by jackie stark
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Conversation Topics for ESL Class
"Favourite things" is a great conversation topic, especially with younger students. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Trying to conduct a conversation in an English as a second language (ESL) class can be difficult. So finding topics that everyone can enjoy discussing using English instead of their native tongue can go a long way toward making sure the class is lively and involved instead of quiet and reserved.

Hobbies and Favorites

The simplest way to keep students, especially younger ones, involved in a dialogue is to make sure that the conversation relates directly back to them. Talking about people's favourite things is a great way to start a discussion. From favourite flicks to foods and pets, every student in class will have an opinion and will most likely enjoy voicing it.

Discussing students' hobbies or favourite pastimes is also a good way to get a conversation started. Since most younger kids don't really have hobbies, this is a good way to get high school or college-age students talking.

News and Politics

Any interesting recent news is always a good way to get a conversation started, especially with older students. Anything from a recent political scandal to who is having the latest celebrity melt down will most likely spark some interest, and at least begin a conversation that can then evolve into something else.

For example, a discussion on the April, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion could easily lead into a conversation about world oil consumption or environmental preservation.

However, depending on what country they are currently teaching in, ESL teachers should be careful when they discuss politics, which can be a taboo subject in some places.


Using technology as a backdrop is a great way to get students of almost any age talking. For example, students could discuss what they would do if they could make the next big hit on YouTube, or what app they would like to see developed for an iPhone.


Food is one of the most universal topics out there. Everyone has a food they absolutely love and a food they can't stand. Having students talk about traditional foods their families cook or what they would choose as their last meal will ensure that everyone has an opinion. Students could also work together to make a menu for a restaurant they'd like to see opening in their town.

For older students, cooking -- not just food -- is also a good topic. Students could explain how to prepare a meal they often cook at home, from the list of ingredients straight through the entire cooking process. This will help make sure the class is using a wide range of vocabulary.

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