Compelling American Conversations
by Eric H. Roth and Toni Aberson with Hal Bogotch
Chimayo Press

"You speak a few words in English... You make your opening moves in becoming a modern American and world citizen."

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) can be a demanding profession. Unlike most other subjects such as mathematics, history, or even English for native speakers, successful ESL instruction requires teachers to not simply rely on the knowledge gained in their own academic preparation but to also learn to think in many ways like their students. For example, certain usage norms that the native speaker learns growing up and takes for granted are rarely fully explained in textbooks and often require the teacher to mentally step outside of his or her cultural upbringing when analyzing and discussing them. Finding curriculum which can help the instructor in this challenging process by getting students to speak more and thus reveal any errors is difficult, but the authors' newest book makes that task a lot easier.

One of the reasons this book is so useful is due to the authors' careful attention to the feedback they received from teachers and students regarding one of their previous works. Like all good instructors they have modified their curriculum to better serve their readers, and their extra effort has resulted in one of the best ESL textbooks on the market today for non-beginners. For instance, while the average curriculum often focuses primarily on grammar, usage, and vocabulary building at the expense of realistic conversation tools, even for intermediate and advanced students, the authors have flipped this approach on its head, concentrating instead on thought-provoking questions and discussion starters that cajole students into taking risks and talking more, thus giving instructors better opportunities to correct errors as they occur. There will never be an ESL textbook that will give every student the confidence to converse, but this one makes a valiant attempt.

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