ESL Shopping Dialogues

Instructor: Vanessa Botts
Shopping is a necessary (and often fun) activity that everyone engages in on a regular basis. In this lesson, we will provide examples of shopping dialogues for ESL students of varying ages and language levels.

Shopping Dialogues for Increasing ESL Skills

Practicing shopping dialogues can useful for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. It can translate to their lives outside the classroom, and students--especially those at low linguistic levels--can increase their vocabulary and oral communication skills.

Regardless of age, classroom dialogues that center around shopping can keep students engaged as they increase their language proficiency. Below, we will discuss a few shopping dialogues that you can adapt to your classroom needs to help your ESL students improve their communication and shopping skills!

Please and Thank You

The words please and thank you are the basis for this shopping dialogue. This activity is most appropriate for younger students or students at early language-learning levels, but it can be adapted for more advanced students.

Even with limited language skills, shopping for specific items can be conducted by pointing at a desired object and saying please. This is a simple and effective way to let others know what we would like to purchase. Once we receive our chosen item, we make a payment, say thank you and that's it--we have bought something!

For this dialogue, you can have students take turns asking you (or each other) for something in the classroom by saying please while pointing at the item they want. Once the item is handed to them, they will say thank you to complete the transaction.

Students who are more advanced can add the name of the object. A sample dialogue could look something like this:

Student: Book, please.

Teacher: Book? Here you go!

Student: Thank you.

The process can be repeated so each student gets a chance to make a purchase.

I Would Like…I Need… (Easy)

We add to the complexity of the previous 'Please and Thank You' dialogue by adding the phrases I would like and I need. These statements are a great way to introduce beginning-level students to polite ways to ask for things when they go shopping, order at a restaurant or even ask someone for assistance. You can play the role of shopkeeper and allow students to 'purchase' a variety of items you have on hand by adding new phrases to their requests.

Below is a sample dialogue:

Student: I would like a book, please.

Teacher: You would like a book? No problem. Here you go!

Student: Thank you. Now, I need that thing too.

Teacher: Which thing do you need? Do you need this pencil?

Student: Yes, please.

I Would Like…I Need…(Intermediate to Advanced)

The 'I Would Like…I Need…' dialogue can be adapted for older, more advanced students. Divide students into groups of three or four, and instruct the members within each group to play the roles of customers and wait staff at a restaurant or the roles of shopkeeper and customers. They will create scripts for their own dialogues to be presented in front of the class.

You could provide students with a restaurant menu (or have them create their own) or other props. It may also be a good idea to provide students with some standard phrases they can use as a springboard for creating their scripts, and you may want to create a length limitation to ensure everyone has time to present their dialogues in front of the class.

Here is a sample dialogue:

Student 1 (wait staff): Welcome to Happy Restaurant! Table for two?

Student 2 (customer): Yes, please.

Student 1 (wait staff): Follow me to your seats.

Student 3 (customer): Could we see the menus, please?

Student 1 (wait staff): Certainly. Here are your menus.

Student 2 (customer): I would like to order the plate of chicken and potatoes.

Student 3 (customer): I need a glass of water.

Student 1 (wait staff): Water bottles cost $2.00.

Student 3 (customer): I would like to have tap water.

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