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Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics- An Engaging ESL Textbook for Advanced Students Paperback – March 2, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1419658280 ISBN-10: 141965828X Edition: 0002-

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Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics- An Engaging ESL Textbook for Advanced Students + English the American Way: A Fun ESL Guide to Language and Culture in the U.S. w/Audio CD (English as a Second Language Series) + McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English: The Illustrated Guide to Everyday Expressions of American English (McGraw-Hill ESL References)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing; 0002- edition (March 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141965828X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419658280
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.4 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In my own teaching, I have found questions and quotations to be highly effective in promoting student discussion. Questions are useful in that they require a response from the listener. Asking them also helps students master the tricky rules of the interrogative. Quotations are brilliant flashes of wit expressed in the shortest space possible, often just a sentence or two. The authors have compiled a formidable collection of quotations by famous people from Napoleon and Aristotle to Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone. Some will have the students roaring with laughter "My movies were the kind they show in prisons and airplanes because nobody can leave." - Burt Reynolds), while others require careful introspection ("Love is not just looking at each other; it's looking in the same direction." - Antoine de Saint Exupery). The authors also add some wise proverbs here and there. My two favourites were "Recite `patience' three times and it will spare you a murder" and "When money talks, truth keeps silent", which are from Korea and Russia. In sum, Compelling Conversations is a recommended resource for teachers who want to make their conversation classes more learner-centered. It should be especially appealing to those who wish to escape the confines of the Presentation-Practice-Production approach and do without a formal grammatical or functional syllabus. It reflects the authors' considerable professional experience, and would be a notable addition to any English teacher's bookshelf." -- Hall Houston, English Teaching Professional, January 2009

"This outstanding resource (Compelling Conversations) allows teachers to confidently walk into an advanced ESL classroom with self-contained, engaging conversation lessons. The 45 thematic chapters allow you to both evoke student experience with long lists of practical and savvy questions. The inclusion of global proverbs and classic quotations also provides larger cultural contexts to inspire deeper conversations - or writing assignments. Students should also appreciate the generous amount of authentic language. I wish I would have had that book in my old adult/university classes. A great book for adult education teachers, university instructors, and private tutors!" -- Eric Busch, director/founder,, August 2007

"Have you been looking for a good ESL manual? If you have, I think this is one (Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics) to consider. The topics cover: Your Life, The Civic Life, along with the everyday aspects as dating, enjoying money, handling stress. The editors put it together in an easy to use form. You have conversation starters such as, "How much time do you spend each week in cars? Why?" There is a section in each chapter for vocabulary building. A section on common sayings is included, as well. To increase the conversation we have such questions as this: "Do you prefer to drive in the city or the country? Flat or hills?" Each chapter in the book concludes with quotations. An example is this one by Woody Allen, "I have bad reflexes. I was once run over by a car being pushed by two guys." This manual helps conversation by giving common subjects to talk about. Since English is one of the confusing, difficult and strange languages for a foreigner to grasp and be comfortable conversing in, the compilers pack in 45 chapters over 30 questions, 10 or more targeted vocabulary words, some proverbs, and quotations per chapter. Each chapter focuses on a promising conversation topic. They start with easy questions and continue on to questions a bit more abstract. Each question is there to allow the speaker to share his life experiences along with his insights. This manual will go best with the advanced ESL student or even at coffee shop conversation clubs. It will bring about authentic, not stilted communication, which should be the purpose of an ESL course. It is easier for a person to learn a language through conversation rather than by a given list of vocabulary words. That is what makes this a welcome addition to the material which can be used for the immigrant who must learn English to advance in the world." -- Dane Robert Swanson, Santa Monica Daily Press, 1/16/2009

From the Author

Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure."
- Edward Thorndike (1874-1949), American psychologist

The art of conversation, once considered the sign of a civilized individual, seems less common today. Yet I treasure the moments of sharing experiences, collecting news, and exchanging ideas. I make a point of knowing my neighbors, allowing casual greetings to become long conversations, and making time to explore in depth the feelings and perceptions of friends, students, and relatives. 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 YouTube, play computer games, chat via email rather than talk to relatives, co-workers, and friends. Many Americans, it seems, have forgotten how to hold good, deep conversations - or even a friendly chat on the phone. I suspect this lack of real communication lessens their daily joy.

English language learners, of course, face many more barriers to have a satisfying conversation in English. First, English remains a confusing, difficult, and strange language. It's very easy to feel uncomfortable when speaking a new language - whether a second or fourth.  English students in my advanced speaking skills courses often ask questions like:
  • How do start a conversation?
  • What questions do I ask?
  • How can I keep a real conversation going?
  • How do I share agreement - or disagreement - in a polite way?
  • How can I share my experiences in clear manner with appropriate vocabulary?
  • How I can have better, more engaging conversations?
Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics addresses these issues for both native and non-native speakers. The focus remains on learning by doing and making "good mistakes". (Good mistakes, by the way, are natural mistakes that help us learn so we can make different and better "good mistakes" next time.)

Each of the 45 thematic chapters focuses on a promising conversation topic. Every chapter includes 30 or more questions (both direct and indirect), 10 or more targeted academic vocabulary words, a few proverbs to paraphrase, and 10 or more quotations to discuss from a variety of perspectives. Although designed for advanced English language learners, many intermediate ESL and EFL students will plenty of material to use can can benefit from exposure to authentic questions, common phrases, and new vocabulary words.

As I tell my university English students, "your English may not be perfect yet, but daily practice does lead to significant progress." Compelling Conversations gives students, teachers, and tutors the tools and phrases to talk more and listen better to friends, classmates, and strangers in English.  I hope you enjoy creating many compelling conversations - in and out - of the English classrooms!

Eric H. Roth
co-author of Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics

More About the Authors

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Customer Reviews

Book in really good conditions!
Amazon Customer
This Compelling Conversations book offers unique and useful ways to further your understanding of the English language.
Kris Noel
This book is a great resource for conversation starting questions, quotations, and vocabulary to use with ESL students.
Ruth Scovill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By loopidiloop on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
These conversation starters are not just for ESL students but for anyone who is a bit shy or has trouble speaking around people. The questions are engaging and interesting and draws people into a variety of diverse subjects ranging from "Does your dog have a personality?" to "Have you ever had to hire/fire someone or work for a crazy boss?" The book also has may jokes, quotes and proverbs that often bring common day improper english into the mix. A must have book!
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Bruner on November 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
I first tried this fantastic textbook with a high intermediate student that I tutor. I was amazed from the start at how naturally the conversation flowed. We were only halfway through the first set of questions when she decided to buy her own copy. Each of the 45 chapters includes a vocabulary section and list of around 12 to 15 classic quotations, along with between thirty and forty questions. The chapters can be used in any order, but I recommend starting with chapter one as it orients the students to the textbook and shows them how to get the most out of subsequent chapters. Either in the classroom or one on one, it's accessible to intermediate students and challenges advanced students. The quotations, from Socrates to Shaw and from Picasso to Pete Rose, are all identified by name, when they lived, and what they did. This book is truly a treasure.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bea S. Chumley on May 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a longtime ESL student and medical professional, I wish I had this book when I was preparing for the "English Proficiency Exam" in London.

It goes beyond the boring dialogs of most ESL books and provides great current conversations that fit our crazy modern times.

For instances:

"Are sex, love and marriage linked in your mind?"

"What does your partner do that annoys you?"

"Will your partner love you with wrinkles?"

These are good questions!

I also like the proverbs:"If it's torn it can't be worn." (Persian)

Excellent book, great learning tool, absolutely at the top of the list in its category!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Power English Coach on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
If I had to sum up what I loved about "Compelling Conversations" in one sentence, I would say that it contains the recipe for making anyone a great conversationalist!

In addition to 45 well-selected topics perfectly suited for casual or in-depth conversations, the authors provide excellent resources and guidelines that make a conversation run smoothly in an engaging, informative and thought provoking manner.

Each chapter consists of a list of questions - from specific to more abstract - , as well proverbs, sayings and quotations on a given subject. There is plenty of material appropriate for different levels of proficiency: from intermediate to advanced. I would even say that native speakers of English with somewhat limited social skills could benefit greatly by using this book.

"Compelling Conversations" encourages the reader to examine many different ways of thinking and teaches respect and genuine interest in other people's models of the world. It teaches active listening skills and offers gentle conversation reminders, such as be kind, explore, be open, be supportive, that help the reader set a positive intention for each interaction.

I am glad to have found a book that combines great content, conversational skills and psychology of empowerment.

Natasha Cooper, author of ESL how-to books "Scripts for Winning Jobs" and "The Telephone for Business and Daily Life".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erika Villafane on December 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
When compelling conversations got into my hands I couldn't help but to think: I wish I had this book when I was learning English!

As English as a second language speaker, I can really tell the difference that compelling conversations has with other ESL text books: topics richness that takes learning at a higher level.

Not only you will feel motivated to improve your language skills, but you will have a rich-provoking theme about life to discuss and share with your tutor or classmates. That in turn makes you grow personally and you certainly will remember the discussed matter here when need it to apply into a situation out of the classroom. You will appreciate American culture as well as other's point of view.

The book is very well structured into four sections totaling 45 chapters. Each one of them is organized into conversations starters followed by vocabulary, proverbs and the indispensable quotations. One that really caught my attention was the Arab proverb "he who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything"

I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn while enjoying the process.

Erika Villafane
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Diane M. Asitimbay on April 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is extremely rich in content. It contains deeper and more provocative questions than we usually find in advanced conversational texts. The authors provide an enormous variety of conversational topics, with 45 chapters and 30 or more questions in each chapter. ESL teachers will happily discover this book stimulates students to talk and encourages them to share their personal stories.

Educators who find this book useful, would also enjoy What's Up America?, a cultural guide for Advanced ESL students.

Highly recommended.
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