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Conversation starters

— This lesson was prepared by Maureen Paetkau, a professional teacher of English as a second and foreign language. Check out her lessons on Bangkok Post.


Some people are better conversationalists than others. They seem to have interesting things to talk about and are genuinely interested in what others think. It's not just that they are lucky – good conversationalists work at their skill.

Today's lesson gives you a chance to develop your conversation skills. Here you'll find some short, interesting stories that have appeared in the Bangkok Post . Once you have read and understood one of them, prepare to tell someone about it and find out what they think. Be ready to think about other people's stories, too.

Here are some conversation gambits (conversation starters) to help you strike up (begin) your conversation: "Have you heard about …." "Did you read the story about …." "Hey, what do you think about … ." "I was reading a story of …. ."

Here's what to do:

Choose one of the stories below that interests you by reading the headlines. Read the story and make sure you understand it. Then use one of the gambits above to start up a conversation with a classmate, a study group friend or some friends at ESL Monkeys Student Forum. Tell the story to that person making sure they understand it. Then use the follow-up questions to continue the conversation getting their ideas.


Safe speeding

Sydney — A survey released yesterday by the Australia Transport and Safety Bureau found that a third of motorists thought that speeding was fine so long as you were a good driver. Around 37% identified speed as the major cause of car accidents. However, 32% agreed with the statement that it was possible to speed and drive safely at the same time. — dpa

  • What do you think about the idea that it is possible to speed and drive safely at the same time?
  • Who do you think will decide whether someone is a good driver or not?
  • What about other vehicles on the road?

‘Destroy' piranhas

Beijing — Authorities in China's capital Beijing have ordered all piranhas kept at local aquariums and amusement parks destroyed, state media reported yesterday. This comes after a sudden surge in the popularity of the man-eating fish among Chinese pet owners, leading to concerns that it could escape into local eco-systems and wreak havoc, Xinhua news agency said. — AFP

  • What conditions make it right to kill an animal that has not yet done any harm?
  • What other kinds of dangerous pets have people been known to keep. How can we be sure their pets won't damage others or the environment?
  • What kind of damage can strange animals cause in the eco-system?

Smell causes alarm

Sydney — The pungent smell of durian fruit prompted a full-scale security scare at Brisbane airport and delayed a flight for four hours yesterday. Passengers were bundled off an early morning Virgin Blue flight to Adelaide when cargo handlers raised the alarm about a strong odour in the hold. Virgin Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey denied the airline had overreacted or displayed cultural insensitivity. He compared the smell of the legendary Southeast Asian delicacy to a toilet after use. — dpa

  • How would you describe the smell of durian?
  • Do you think that Mr Godfrey's description of the smell of durian sounds ‘culturally insensitive', that is negative about Asia?
  • Should the owner of the durian be disciplined in any way? How would you do that?

dsadNot a good shot

Hong Kong — A Chinese farmer who tried to shoot a hawk sitting on a power line has been jailed after causing a massive electricity blackout. Wei Shiguang, from Longlinge county, Guangxi, missed the bird but blasted cables and power equipment, shutting down the local power grid for eight hours. He was jailed for four years for causing damage to the electricity network, the South China Morning Post reported. — dpa

  • Why do you think Mr Wei was jailed for four years? Do you think that is a fair punishment for his crime?
  • If someone did that in your neighbourhood, what treatment would you suggest for him?
  • Should Mr Wei be made to take shooting lessons?
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