ESL Conversation Questions & Topics

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

For students who are learning English as a second language (ESL), conversations can be a bit of a challenge. Read on for some fun and effective conversation starters that you can use with your ESL students.

Introducing Conversation in the ESL Classroom

Before introducing conversation into the ESL classroom, it is important to create a classroom community. ESL students need to feel comfortable and supported, so they can speak up without fear of ridicule or embarrassment. Establish conversation guidelines to build community and respect among all class members. Some example guidelines are:

  • Be considerate of others
  • Do not interrupt others
  • Respect the ideas and opinion of others
  • Give your attention to whomever is speaking
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Think before you speak

As the teacher, make sure you are following, and not just implementing, your conversation guidelines. Get involved in the conversation, but also try to delve further into questions to keep the conversation going.


To maximize language comprehension and acquisition, try to include newly learned English vocabulary when creating questions for conversation. It is always a good idea to include topics relating to content being studied. Try to make as many connections as possible between subjects, themes, vocabulary, and lessons. You can present topics or questions:

  • On slips of paper for students to choose from
  • On a ball for students to pass around
  • On conversation cards
  • One at a time so each student has a chance to answer

Conversation Topics

These topics can be used with whole group, small group, round robin, or even partner pair ups. You can find additional ESL conversation questions here.

Education and Work

  • What is the hardest thing about learning English?
  • Why are you learning English?
  • Is it more important to have a high-paying job or a job you enjoy?
  • What is your idea of an ideal job?
  • Are life experiences as important as education?

Hypothetical Situations

  • What would you do if you won the lottery?
  • If you could be an animal, which animal would you want to be? Why?
  • If you were to meet someone from the future, what would you tell them about life today?
  • If you had three wishes, what would they be?
  • What is something you have never done but would like to do?
  • If you could start any business, what would it be?

Travel and Vacation

  • Why should people travel?
  • Do you believe people should learn new languages? Why or why not?
  • What changes would make the world a better place?
  • If you could live any where in the world, where would you want to live?
  • What is your idea of the perfect vacation?
  • Where was your last vacation? What did you do there?

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