Do you want to get some discussion going in your ESL/EFL classes? Thought so. Then you’ll need to check out my top conversation questions to get the ball rolling. Read more for all the details about conversation starters for adults! If you’re a language teacher, then it’s kind of a can’t miss list of ESL conversation topics.
Let’s get into the best ESL convo topics that you might want to consider trying out in your classes.
Conversation Starters for Adults
If you’re looking for a quick ESL warm-up or perhaps a more in-depth discussion, check out these 10 conversation starters for adults—perfect for your ESL speaking classes. They are appropriate for students in almost any country.
If you want to start your ESL class off in style, with the students talking, sharing ideas and having fun, then you’ll need to consider using these Conversation Starters for Adults. Have fun!
#1: If I won the lottery
This is probably my favourite ESL conversation topic. Have students describe what they would do or what they would buy if they won the lotto. I usually specify an amount of $1,000,000. This is enough that you can do almost anything you want, but it’s not too unreasonable-it forces students to prioritize.
The way students answer this question reveals a whole lot about them!
#2 Conversation Question: Bucket List
Students need to think of five things they want to do before they die. You can give some examples to get them started, but most people are pretty familiar with this concept.
This is a good question to find out what students value most in life. It can also be a nice warmup for a unit on travel.
#3: Guilty Pleasures
This is one of the most interesting ESL conversation questions for adults.
Explain to the students what a guilty pleasure is–they likely won’t know the term in English. Then, it’s time for confession!
I love this question because students often mention a trashy TV show that they watch. And, I’ll usually confess to watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.
#4: Things You’ve Learned Lately
Have students think of two or three things that they couldn’t do as a child but can do now. Emphasize that it’s related to a skill of some kind or you’ll just get answers like drinking or smoking. This is one of the best ESL conversation topics for adults.
#5: Last Purchase
Have students talk about the last thing they bought that was more than $100. This is one of the most interesting ESL conversation questions.
#6: You’re the President Conversation Starter for Adults
Your students can talk about what their top three priorities would be if they were the president of their country. It’s one of the best ESL conversation questions for teenagers or adults.
#7: Favorite Things ESL Conversation Question
Students submit questions with the starter, “What is your favorite _____.” Collect the papers, choose the best three and then students must answer them. Or, you can hand out a couple of papers to each small group and they can discuss different things.
Find some daily or monthly horoscopes online. Students read their descriptions and see if they match. It’s quite fun because horoscopes are so open to various interpretations.
#9: People in Your Life
Who are the three people that you spend the most time with these days? What qualities do you appreciate about each person?
#10: The Best Decision
Students think of a difficult decision they made but which they’re confident that they made the right choice.
#11: Dream Vacation
If students had $10, 000 (or the equivalent in your local currency) and a long time off from work, where would they go?
#12: 100 Days Left
You just went to the doctor and found out that you have a rare disease. You only have 100 days left, so how would you spend that time?
#13: 5 Things in Common
Students have to go with a partner, and then find five things that they share in common. Things like favourite foods, sports they like to play, favourite day of the week, first language, home life, etc. Encourage students to try to find things that are not obvious such as that they’re both in your class together, or that they live in city ABC.
#14: What Can You Cook?
Is there a food that you can cook really well and your family or friends love to eat? It can even be something very simple.
Do you have any tips for someone else who wants to make this?
#15: What do you Want to Learn?
If you had 10 free hours a week, and could learn 1 new skill, what would it be and why?
#16: Dream Job
What is your ideal job? Why? This is one of the most interesting ESL conversation questions for high school or university students.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 05/30/2015 (Publication Date)
#17: If School Were Free…
If a university education were free, and you got paid a basic salary to attend, would you ever stop being a student? Why or why not? Or, would you get a job?
#18: Movies, Books, and TV Shows
What do you spend your time watching or reading? What’s your favourite movie, or what is the next one you’d like to watch.
#19: Bad Habits
If you change one of your personal habits without any effort, what would it be? Sleeping late? Smoking? Not exercising enough? Eating potato chips? How do you feel about it? Do you want to change or you don’t care about it?
If you want to focus on superlative adjectives, you could change the question to, “What is your worst habit? And your best?”
Habits are one of the best conversation topics for adults.
#20: Best Vacation ESL Convo Topic
Students can talk about the best vacation they’re even been on. You can mention things like food, weather, activities, etc. I generally start this one off by quickly telling students about a recent vacation that I took.
#21: Family ESL
A classic conversation topic for adults is family. After all, most people grow up in one and then have a new one later in life. It’s for this reason that there are so many things to talk about. And of course, everyone has opinions about what they should look like!
#22: Christmas (or Equivalent Holiday)
Everyone has ideas about what are the best traditions and activities to do for Christmas, or whatever holiday is most popular in the country you’re teaching in. This can lead to interesting discussions about things like values, family and consumerism.
#23: How to Spend $1000 Frivolously
This is a fun ESL convo topic that gets everyone to say how they’d spend $500, with the requirement that it must be done frivolously. That is, it can’t be used for investing, paying off bills, etc. Give some examples of how someone might be on a trip while someone else might go on a shopping spree.
#24: Favourite Season Conversation Starter for Adults
Everyone has a favourite (and least favourite) season. Students can talk about whether they like spring, summer, fall or winter best and give some reasons why, as well as which one they don’t like and why.
#25: Future Predictions ESL Conversation Topic
Making some predictions about the future is a fun adult conversation starter. I generally relate this to the topic of the day such as extreme weather, politics, sporting events, pop culture, etc. It’s definitely one of my favourite ESL convo topics and students usually find this unit quite interesting.
More Conversation Topics and Starters for Adults
Here are even more conversation topics for adults to check out:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Do you have any vacations coming up?
- How’s your day so far?
- Are you watching anything on Netflix these days?
- What are you reading now?
- Did you have a good weekend?
- Do you have any tattoos?
- Do you have any pets?
- Which sports do you play?
- Tell me about your family.
- Been to any good restaurants lately?
- Have you seen any good movies recently?
What about Discussion Starters for Children?
Some of these questions such as what you’d do if you were the president or a dream vacation are great for kids. However, some of them obviously aren’t like a guilty pleasure!
If you teach children, then check out this list made specifically for them: Conversation Starters for Kids.
What About ESL Conversation Topics Based on a Grammar Point?
Maybe you’ve had this experience before? You’re teaching about a certain grammar point like conditionals or gerunds and infinitives and you tell students to ask each other questions using that specific grammar. Total silence!
Of course, it’s not the students’ fault. It’s that they haven’t been given enough information to work with. Instead, give them some ESL Conversation starters and you’ll likely have much better results.
It’s certainly possible to use conversation questions based on a certain grammar point instead of organizing them topically such as you would with a vocabulary lesson.
What about Some ESL Conversation Topics for Adults?
If you’re looking for some discussion topics for your adult classes that are sure to be a winner, then you’ll want to check out some of these top ideas that’ll work with almost any student in any country. Of course, be sure to adapt the topic to the level of your students by adjusting the activities, questions, listening or reading passages that you use.
Here are some of the best discussion topics for adults:
- Time, and how people spend it
- An ideal first date
- Last book they’ve read
- Favourite restaurant
- Ageing society
- Giving advice for some common problems
- Challenges in society
- Anything in the news or current events
- Electric cars
- Renewable energy
- Family values (more ideas here: ESL family activities)
- Getting a job
If you want to get a bit more organization going on in your life, check out these top picks: teacher rolling carts.
ESL Conversation and Discussion FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about ESL conversation topics. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How do you teach ESL conversation to adults?
There are a number of steps you can follow to teach ESL conversation to adults. Some of them include the following:
- Focusing on communication instead of accuracy.
- Make classes as student-centred as possible (reduce teacher talking time).
- Use pair and small group work as much as possible.
- Change partners often.
- Use a variety of interesting and engaging activities and games.
- Teach vocabulary and review key grammatical concepts.
- Monitor for errors and offer gentle feedback.
- Of course, be sure to choose interesting things to talk about.
How to I teach ESL conversation to beginners?
Here are a few tips for teaching ESL conversation to beginners:
- Keep it as simple as possible.
- Be sure to check for understanding using concept checking questions (CCQs).
- Allow for lots of practise time in class.
- Use lots of pair and small group work and change partners frequently.
- Try to reduce teacher talking time as much as possible.
- Use a variety of student-centred ESL conversation activities.
- Use engaging ESL convo topics
What are some of the best ESL conversation topics?
The best ESL conversation topics are ones that the majority of the students in the class have personal experience with and are interested in. Things like daily schedules, hopes for the future, food, movies, hobbies, work or school life and current events are ideal for ESL convo topics.
How can I teach conversation to ESL?
Did you like these ESL Conversation Topics?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 278 Pages - 07/12/2020 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so. Then you’re going to love this book over on Amazon: 67 ESL Conversation Topics with Questions, Vocabulary, Writing Prompts & More. If you teach speaking and conversation classes for teenagers or adults, it’s the book you need! There are 67 ready-made lesson plans that’ll save you a ton of time.
You can find the book in both digital and print formats. It’s easier than ever to have great discussion classes with these engaging ESL convo topics, along with everything you need to have an interesting lesson.
Check out the book for yourself, but only if you want to get some serious ESL teaching awesome in your life:
Have your Say about ESL Conversation Topics for Adults
How do you get your students talking in your classes with ESL convo topics? Do you use one of these ESL conversation topics, or something else? What are some of the best ESL conversation questions? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this a share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself find this useful teaching resource.
Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Maggie Larocque says
These are great ideas for my Saturday conversation class. I can also use them for personalized classes when I have a new student I want to get to know.
Was looking for some conversation starters for my adult students and came across your page. Lots of nice ideas to get the ball rolling. My students are ALL about free talking and it’s a struggle for me to always come up with new topics for them.
catherine Brewster says
Loved it so much fun and creativity. Can’t wait to start using all your suggestions!
Joe Hester says
I really like your questions. I use them with my students in our speaking groups.
Nabisere asmah says
I love your ideas for conversation starters! Such a nice way to get students talking to each other, right from the beginning of class.
So helpful, thank you!