Most of you can agree with me when I say: it’s hard to get to know a new language without speaking out loud with someone else. Conversation builds connections, propels relationships, and of course, powers learning, especially English language learning. Don’t believe me? Hear me out.

Just think: it’s impossible to build the foundation of friendship without conversing with one another. You need to chat. And learning a language works the same way! One source notes that “The best way to learn and teach a foreign language is to use that language.”

Are you ready to become acquainted with good conversational topics for English language learning? Let’s get started!

Two girls in Vietnam

How Conversation Benefits English Language Learning

One source from Rossman School confirms the importance of connecting with others through chatter: “People learn by hearing each other’s thoughts while observing facial and body expressions that show emotions.” The point? Talking helps us learn.

Benefit one: conversation propels confidence

Rossman School also notes that “Conversations cultivate the growth of language and confidence in speaking with others.”

It can be nerve-wracking to speak a new language—you’re scared of mixing up words and getting made fun of for your native accent and pronunciation, and I can relate.

In high school, I excelled at French, especially when it came to reading and writing, but when I got the opportunity to travel to Quebec (the French-speaking province in that cold place—Canada), I couldn’t speak because I was scared that people would mock my Western Canadian (sometimes valley-girl sounding) accent.

It also didn’t help that when I finally mustered up the courage to say “Bonjour” to a shop clerk, she responded with a cheery “Hello”. Cue feelings of exasperation, despair, and gloom.

I can’t even say “bonjour” without revealing my native accent!

When you practice a new language through conversation, expect your confidence to skyrocket. In the end, your overall fluidity will increase, too.

Benefit two: conversation allows you to hear the proper pronunciation of certain words

When you converse with someone, they can help you to correct your pronunciation! You can also hear the proper pronunciation of words when you listen to songs and audiobooks and watch movies. However, talking gives you the chance to hear your mistakes; your partner can help to correct your errors and vice versa.

Plus, when you correct your partner's mistakes, it benefits your ability to remember the proper grammar and pronunciation, too.

Okay, enough talk about the benefits!

Get ready to find out some of the best conversation starters and topics for ESL.

People discussing topics

What Are Some of the Best Conversation Topics for ESL?

I've provided some conversational topics—ones that invite your recipient to provide colorful, detailed responses—that you can discuss with a friend, teacher, acquaintance, your students, etc.

Hobbies/Interests/Free time

Discussion points you can include: sports, reading, music, TV shows, and movies

Questions for beginners:

  • What’s your favorite summer/fall/winter/spring activity?
  • Do you enjoy playing sports? If so, what’s your favorite sport to play?
  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • What was the last movie you watched at the cinema?
  • Which type of music do you enjoy listening to? Who is your favorite singer?
  • Do you enjoy reading books? Tell me about your favorite book!
  • What do you like more? Books, movies, or music? Why?
  • What do you like doing on the weekend?
  • What do you and your friends like to do together?

Questions for more fluent speakers:

  • What’s something you’ve always wanted to try, but scares you?
  • If you could meet one singer/band/author/actor/scientist in the entire world, who would you want to meet?
  • If you could become a character in any book, which book would it be?
  • Where’s your favorite spot to listen to live music?
  • Have you been to any concerts recently? Which one did you go to?
  • If you were to travel to an island for three months, and you could only take three items, which items would you take along?
  • Would you rather lay on the couch all day and listen to music or go on a day-long hike?
  • What entertains you the most? Books, movies, or music? Why?

Food/Beverages

Discussion points you can include: grocery stores, cooking, restaurants

Questions for beginners:

  • Where’s your favorite restaurant?
  • What’s your favorite thing to buy at the grocery store?
  • Do you enjoy cooking? What do you like to make?
  • What’s your favorite meal—breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
  • What’s your favorite food/fruit/vegetable?
  • Does any food make you sick?
  • Do you like eating pizza? If so, what are your favorite pizza toppings?

Questions for more fluent speakers:

  • If you could only buy five items from the grocery store, what would you buy?
  • If you could only eat one food for the next year, what would it be?
  • Which country do you think has the best food?
  • Are there foods that you hated as a kid, but you like now?
  • Are you allergic to any food?
  • If you could be allergic to any food, which would it be?
  • Do you like cooking? If so, which meal do you like to cook best?
  • Do you and your friends eat out at restaurants a lot? Where do you like to go?
  • What’s your favorite cocktail?
  • Do you enjoy going out and drinking? What’s the name of your favorite bar/club/pub and why do you like it so much?
  • What do you think of American/Italian/Mexican/Chinese food? Which one’s your favorite?

Jobs

Questions for beginners:

  • What are/were your favorite subjects in school? (You can use this to segue into a discussion about the future.)
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What’s your dream job?
  • What are your parents’ jobs?
  • What’s your current job?

Questions for more fluent speakers:

  • When did you start working? What was your first job?
  • What’s your current job?
  • Describe your day-in-a-life at work?
  • Do you want to be your own boss one day? Or do you prefer working for others?
  • Did your degree help you to land your current job?
  • Which job could you never, ever do?
  • What was your dream job as a kid?
  • If you could switch to another job, which occupation would you choose?
  • Do you prefer working with people or by yourself? Why?

Relationships

Questions for beginners:

  • Who is your best friend?
  • What’s your favorite thing about your best friend?
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife? How long have you been together?
  • What’s your favorite thing about your boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • Do you want to get married someday? How old do you want to be?
  • Are you married? When did you get married?
  • What’s your wife’s/husband’s/girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s job?

Questions for more fluent speakers:

  • When did you go on your first date? How did it go?
  • Can you remember your first kiss?
  • Have you ever dated someone you met online? How did it go?
  • What are some traits you look for in a potential partner?
  • What would your ideal date night be?
  • If you and your partner could travel anywhere, where would you go?
  • What attracted you to your partner?
  • Who initiated your relationship?

Travel

Questions for beginners:

  • Which country do you want to visit?
  • Would you rather go to America, Thailand, or France? (You can replace these countries with other ones, of course.)
  • Have you been on an airplane? Did you enjoy it?
  • Which countries have you visited?
  • Do you prefer going to the beach, jungle, mountains, or city when you’re on vacation?
  • Would you rather travel with your parents, friends, or boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?
  • Do you prefer to go to hot or cold places?
  • Would you rather see lions on a safari in Kenya or bears on a hike in Canada?

Questions for more fluent speakers:

  • If you could live in any other country for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
  • Would you rather live on the beach or live in the mountains?
  • Where do you plan on going for your next holiday?
  • Have you ever traveled by yourself? Would you want to?
  • Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
  • Which country do you find terrifying, and would never want to visit?
  • Can you travel for a long time without getting homesick?
  • Which European countries do you want to see the most?
  • If you were super-rich, where would you go on vacation?

You can also ask more fluent speakers the beginner questions, and vice versa. You can be the judge of the conversation!

Two people drinking coffee

Best Conversation Starters to Spice Things Up

Looking to sprinkle some fun into a conversation? Let’s take a look at some example questions!

What do you think of…/When do you think...?

Examples:

  • What do you think of pineapple on pizza?
  • When do you think robots will take over the world?
  • What do you think of chick flicks/romantic comedies/horror movies/superhero movies?
  • When do you think people will stop buying clothes at shopping malls and buy everything online instead?
  • What do you think of living in Antarctica for the rest of your life?

If you…, where would/what would/who would…?

Examples:

  • If you had a million dollars, what would you spend it on?
  • If you could put someone in jail, who would it be?
  • If you could work for anyone in the entire world, who would it be?
  • If you could travel back in time, which century or era would you visit?
  • If you had to listen to one song once every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Would you rather...?

Examples:

  • Would you rather live on the beach where there’s no electricity for the rest of your life or live on the mountain where there’s no electricity?
  • Would you rather brush your teeth with fish sauce or pizza sauce for the next year?
  • Would you rather get trapped under ice and watch people walk over you or have people watch you burn in a fire?
  • Would you rather spend a million dollars on American food or Chinese food?
  • Would you rather spend your entire life with one person, or have many romantic partners throughout your life?

One last weird question for good measure:

Would you rather have fingers that never stop growing or bottomless snot?

Three ladies chatting

In Conclusion

When you first learn a new language, you learn how to discuss the weather, name fruits, and vegetables, and say things like: “I like to eat cheese, but I don’t like cheese on my hamburger.” But as your vocabulary expands, it’s beneficial to chat more!

Once you get past naming clothes, food, and understanding most of the grammar rules, it’s super helpful to talk and become acquainted with the language, whether you find an English-speaking partner online, practice with a friend, or use helpful language-speaking apps like Speechling.