Book Review: Compelling Conversations: Speaking Exercises For Vietnamese Learners Of English

Compelling Conversations:  Speaking Exercises For Vietnamese Learners Of English, by Teresa X. Nguyen & Eric H. Roth

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Chimayo Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

From time to time [1], I receive copies of books from a professor of mine who happens to be a writer and publisher as well as instructor.  Although I do not speak Vietnamese, as someone who has a great interest in learning languages I find it useful to look at English from the point of view of those who are learning the language from the outside.  And although this book does have typos from time to time [2], by and large this is a compelling book that will help its readers become excellent communicators in English.  At the very least, this extremely well-organized and focused book will help those who are learning English ask and answer thoughtful questions in English that will keep them from being boring conversation partners and will likely overcome a great deal of the shyness that is faced by people who are struggling to form their thoughts and may not know what to ask to other people in order to draw them into pleasant and comfortable conversation.

One of the more compelling aspects of this book is the way that it is so tightly organized and so focused on conversation.  Every chapter of the book is divided into twelve sections:  getting started, sharing experiences, word list, expanding vocabulary, asking questions with new vocabulary words, paraphrasing proverbs, building words, discussing quotations, deepening conversations, pronunciation corner, culture corner, and search and share.  The book as a whole, which is slightly more than 200 large pages full of places for responses on the part of the reader, consists of fourteen chapters.  The authors begin with getting started (1) and then look to going beyond hello (2).  After this the authors focus thematically on schools and knowledge (3), being home (4), family bonds (5), food (6) and habits and routines (7).  From there the authors look at questions of being yourself (8), staying healthy (9), friendship (10), attitudes (11), exploring cities (12), dealing with dramatic moments (13), and expressing opinions (14).  After this the book contains six appendices to help the reader in more advanced subjects that may be impossible to cover in the classroom like more advanced search and share exercises (1), forms for presentations and their evaluation (and self-evaluation) (2), interviewing international visitors (3), an academic word list (4), common prefixes and suffixes (5), and recommended supplemental websites and applications (6).

This book is targeted directly to Vietnamese learners of English and so it takes advantage of the authors’ familiarity with that language and its culture, as well as with some of the more striking differences between Vietnamese and English that can make learning English a struggle.  For example, the pronunciation guides are targeted on sounds that Vietnamese might have a hard time forming, like the distinction between t, th, and s.  Additionally, the authors are sensitive to the differences in word formation between the languages as well as the difference between the tonal system of Vietnamese and the stressed and unstressed syllables of spoken English.  The way the book is integrated into larger means of language learning online and the goal of learning more about people and oneself through conversation helps this book increase the conversational capabilities of its readers.  And even for those who do not speak Vietnamese, this book is still useful in the way that it discusses the difficulties that Vietnamese people would have in learning English, which may help native speakers develop understanding for the struggles faced by those they communicate with who speak Vietnamese as their first language.

[1] See, for example:

[2] For example, on page 187 of the book there is the following statement:  “Tú’s decision to move to Phú Quôc had serious consequences for many family [members.].”

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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