Discussion Strategies Conversation Class ~ Student Evaluations, KMU 2007-2008;            Compiled and edited by Robin Debacker at Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea

-“Excellent! Though our class started in the early morning, I attended this class every week, because it was really interesting and exciting. Thank you!”

 -“I really liked the discussion strategies because I didn’t know exactly how to continue conversation smoothly before. I think that rejoinders and follow-up questions are the basis of a good English conversation, and above all, I liked it because it was very easy! I was very shy of speaking in front of a foreigner, but this class taught me that the problem was a lack of self-esteem, not the language. Based on many things that I learned in this class, I will study harder. I really appreciate the teacher’s kindness to us, and I’ll remember all your advice. Thank you!”(정민정)

 – “I didn’t converse with others in English before I took this class. At first I was very shy and nervous, but afterwards I was delighted to make many friends. I think the way of having conversation with people we don’t know is very good and helpful. I was happy that I could practice conversation with other people, and learn the discussion strategies in particular. They will be very useful to me whenever I talk to people, whether in Korean or in English. I really can’t forget this class and the time we had together. Thanks, teacher! ” (조은애)

 – “Our discussion groups were a very self-motivated activity. Each of the group members participated enthusiastically, and it made us rely on and trust each other and shortened the time for us to open our hearts toward each other.” (강용준)

 -“Talking in our discussion groups was the most fun work! Discussing different subjects with different people was really interesting.” (강지헤)

 – “The first day I was a little nervous and embarrassed because I’m so shy, and I couldn’t speak English very well. But our class was fun, and even though I couldn’t speak English I could express my intentions. This was the best class!”

 – “This was a very useful class. It was the first time for me to exercise my English conversation. I realized that speaking in English is not so difficult. I discovered that I can do it!”

 – “Great! I wanted speech practice, and I found it in this class! This class was a shot in the arm for me. Now I try to speak English with my friends and family.”


Students Evaluate the Midterm Speech Students from Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, report about their experiences writing and presenting a speech about their lives in front of their classmates for the midterm exam.

-“Excellent! I love the style of this class. We never had any anxiety about the mid-term. Thank you, teacher. I’ll miss you!”

 -“I’m very shy, and it was hard to present my speech in English, so the mid-term gave me the chance to improve my English skill and also to change my attitude.”

 ~ I learned how to use English language naturally. This is the most important and valuable thing that I learned in this class. Whenever you saw that I incorrectly wrote or spoke English with my own words, you corrected me. Most of them were about collocation, and natural usage. I found that my writing and speaking is too complicated and unnatural for people to understand. After this midterm speech and a series of valuable feedback on my writing, I realized it’s essential to use simple easy English rather than complicated words or phrases.

 ~ Giving a speech in front of an audience was a very good exercise. I have given many presentations in Korean, but not in English. This time was special.

 ~The preparation for the midterm speech helped me a lot. After finishing the midterm speech, I felt like my English skill had improved a lot in a short time. Frankly, I couldn’t have accomplished this if there hadn’t been an intensive midterm speech. It was really helpful. I would like to thank you for helping us.

 Making a Speech

 Whenever I get this kind of homework, I’m very nervous. Having to give a speech in front of many people and to memorize it, especially if it’s in English, is much harder than if it were in Korean.

 I don’t want to talk about just usual things. I want to show what’s real, and who I am, so choosing the subject was also difficult. My artwork is like myself, it has my thought and feeling, so I decided to talk about that.

 I’ve been learning English for over ten years, but it’s still difficult and I’m not good at writing and speaking. When I got the first draft of my speech back, and saw all the red marks, I was a little bit shocked. I made so many mistakes! I spent a lot of time trying to write correct English, but it wasn’t easy. We have different expressions in Korea and America, and sometimes I used a mixture of Korean and English (we call that Konglish).

 I must say to my teacher thank you so much. She corrected my poor speech three times, and because of her effort now I feel I know it more than before. It was a good chance to gain confidence, which will affect my life. This opportunity helped me to have good and proper English and taught me how to give a speech to people. I’m sure that it will be helpful in my future career.

 Reflection on Giving a Speech

 ‘Giving a presentation’ is always hard work but also a good chance to improve the quality of English. I really think it is. I learned writing skills, speaking skills, and listening skills as well. Although I was so nervous about it, I learned a lot.

 When I first wrote the story for this presentation, I made many mistakes. It involved very easy grammar problems and more technical problems. For example, I wrote things to talk instead of things to say. Using slang and abbreviations was also wrong. For example, u for you, and uni for university. It was also hard to speak in front of many people. I kept laughing and trying to make a joke. Honestly, I was terribly embarrassed. I think I should work on that as my teacher mentioned. I had a really useful time in this class and I’ll keep doing my best.

 ~I really liked the way we did our midterm oral exam. Talking about myself in front of everyone helped me gain courage about speaking English and improve my writing skills. I also learned many things about life and my classmates by listening to their stories. I think this is the best way to develop a student’s English skills.

I’m keen about learning this kind of speech skill because when we work for a company or find ourselves in society, this experience can be very valuable to us. By giving a speech I learned how to express my thought to other people as well as the process of making a speech. The midterm speech was really exciting and made me feel enthusiastic, so I really appreciate it.

I believe the speech should be essential for an advanced class, and also in every English class. Giving a presentation is so valuable. Most of all, it helped me to gain confidence to deliver a speech.

The midterm presentation was a great experience for me. I became more comfortable to speak in front of an audience. I think it should be included in the English conversation curriculum because it teaches so much about speech. Presentation skills are essential but unfortunately our education system is lacking in this area. Therefore students face difficulty when they have to speak in front of an audience. This assignment, however, allowed students to learn the skills that they need. In my case, I learned so much about delivery, voice, posture, eye contact, pronunciation and dress code. These are the lessons that I believe should truly be taught in schools.

-The most important thing I learned from this speech was the importance of considering the listener or reader. Before taking this class I didn’t really care about the readers, but now I realize how important it is that the audience understands what you’re saying. For example, now I try to include details so that the reader can understand my story more easily.

 -In my first draft I didn’t divide my writing into paragraphs. I learned that using paragraphs helps the reader to read more easily. I really appreciate the chance to learn all kinds of things I never knew before taking this class.

-In our class, the midterm exam was a speech. I think it was very effective because it gave me an opportunity to speak in front of an audience. That’s not a common opportunity. I practiced several times before the speech, and I had to get dressed up. We had to consider eye contact, posture, pronunciation and memorization, too. All these things were a burden for me. However, it was a very helpful experience. If I ever have to speak in front of many people again, I will never be nervous, thanks to this experience. In the process, I think the most effective way is practicing. I practiced my speech in class in front of other students. For that reason, I felt at peace when I gave my speech.

 -It’s very important to develop our speaking skills. I was very happy to learn not only about delivery skills, but also the mechanics of basic writing such as punctuation, capitalization and using conjunctions. At the beginning I wrote my sentences freely. However, after several revisions, I understood my mistakes. Korean students all have common writing errors, and I was especially interested in that. The whole process helped me a lot, so I think this kind of activity should be done more often.

 –First of all, I must say I liked the Midterm Exam. I learned a lot during the whole process. During the preparation of the speech draft, the professor helped me modify it many times until it was absolutely correct. I felt a little regret that my writing is not so good because my English level limits the expression of my opinions.

 -Though I felt a little nervous in the beginning, it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I believed all the speakers would feel more or less nervous, so all I could do is try to show my confidence and mask my nervousness with a smile and gestures. The interesting thing was that I thought I would forget the speech content, but when I stood on the stage and saw the expectation in my classmates’ eyes, I forgot all my nervousness. At that time, all I thought of was expressing the ideas in my mind as naturally as possible.

 -As I mentioned in my speech, we have many kinds of contests on our Chinese campus, including speech contests. However, I’ve never participated in one because I didn’t have the confidence to do well. After this wonderful experience, I’d like to enter a speech contest, either in English or Chinese. I regard it as the best way to cultivate my confidence and ability to express myself. Thank you for this chance to develop my potential.

-On top of everything, I was able to practice making a presentation in English in front of people. It was my first time making a presentation in English, so I practiced a lot and memorized almost the whole speech. Memorizing helped me to improve my speaking skill. I felt like I got better at English because I could speak fluently what I had memorized. It gave me a lot of confidence.Honestly it was not so easy to write a speech in English, so I had a hard time. However, it was very valuable because our professor corrected all our mistakes. I realized from that what my common errors are, and learned many things. Most of my mistakes are ones I make all the time, and so this helped my everyday speech as well.

It was a valuable experience preparing the speech. Actually, it’s very difficult to get this kind of chance, even if I pay for it. Our professor is so passionate, and that encouraged me to do my best. Since I came back to Korea, I’ve rarely had an opportunity to use my English, but I was able to practice in the class and while I was preparing for the speech.

 When I signed up for this class, I felt kind of worried because I knew there would be many good English speakers. However, the way our professor taught us and the kind of assignments she gave us led us to do our best, and she cared for the students who didn’t have great English as well as those who did. (서창교)

I felt a lot of things about this mid-term speech. The purpose of taking this English conversation class was to improve my language ability. I’m not very good at English because I’ve never been abroad to study. For this reason, the midterm speech helped me a lot. To prepare a good speech, I first had to write a good essay. However, I didn’t know when to use conjunctions until I joined this class. I’ve learned I have to use detail, and write longer sentences to make a natural rhythm. If you hear only short sentences, you won’t be able to concentrate on my speech. The last thing I felt about this essay is confidence. (황진오)

 -The speech was really valuable. I never had the experience of thinking about one topic and writing about it. It was very impressive to make a completed work with the professor’s correction step by step. This exam made me think about my life. In high school I was always so busy memorizing things that I didn’t have a chance to think about my past life. This was also a valuable thing about the midterm speech. At first, my introduction was very short. My professor pointed that out. The beginning of the speech should prepare the audience to listen. It shouldn’t be too long or too short and it should present the topic naturally. (이은용)

-I thought the Self-Introduction speech for our midterm was great. It gave me an opportunity to look over my life and write about it. That was nice because I don’t usually do this kind of writing. This was only the second time that I have delivered a speech in English, and it was a really good and valuable experience. I learned about speaking naturally and using eye contact. I especially liked the dress code. Wearing formal clothes made me feel that I was giving a real speech.

 I think this English class taught by Professor Debacker was very helpful. Not only did we learn English, but we also got to talk to our classmates and share our thoughts and get close to each other, which rarely happens in other classes. I especially liked how Mrs. Debacker plays instruments such as the 소고 and the guitar. It was refreshing and fun. (허유빈) 

 -I liked the Midterm Self-introduction the most. As I said in my speech, this was the first time I have ever given a speech in English. Although I felt so nervous, it was such a great opportunity to introduce myself and look back over the past. This experience has planted confidence in me, and will be a happy memory in my university life. I appreciate this chance to prove myself.” (정민정)








THE JOY of SPEAKING- Conversations with Foreigners (the original STREET MEETS in Korea)

Introduction: Over the years of teaching university students in Korea, I realized one of the best ways to get them over their fears of speaking English was to send them out to the street to meet real people. It was always the scariest assignment, but the one with the most enthusiastic response after the fact. It was a rare student who didn’t come back with an inspired story to tell. Here are a few of them, in their own words.

KMU student after interviewing a foreigner

KMU student after interviewing a foreigner

STORY #1: My Interview with Foreigners 소용덕

Hunting foreigners in Insadong

Hunting foreigners in Insadong

I went to Insadong as my professor said to hunt foreigners. It was so very scary to me. I went there with four classmates. I think I couldn’t hunt foreigners without them. We talked to about ten foreigners. The first time, I was so scared, but by the third time, it was very funny and enjoyable. Most foreigners were very kind and they took an active interest in us. In truth, I had worried about the interview with foreigners because I can’t speak English well, but all the foreigners understood my English, like “How long here?” “When go Canada?” “Why you come here?” I said so much incorrect grammar, but they understood my questions. Now I will introduce two foreigners.

His name is Fabian. He’s from Canada. This foreigner was my first interview. He saw my “English Conversation” Questionnaire. I couldn’t look at it because he wanted to talk, so we just talked about 10 minutes without using the Questionnaire. When I said my major is Electronic Engineering, he said his job was electronic engineer. He liked his job, and he comes to Korea for business. I asked, “What kind of Korean food do you like?” and he said, “Bibimbab and kimchi.” I told him that Bulgogi is very delicious, but he was a vegetarian. He said he likes ice hockey, because ice hockey is so exciting. I asked him, “When do you go back to Canada?” He will go July 17th. He said Canada is a very beautiful country, and he recommended taking a trip to Canada. We had a good time, and I said, “Thank you. Have a good trip.”

His name is Till. He’s from Germany, but he spoke English well, so I asked him, “How do you speak English well?” He said he lived three years in America. I asked, “Do you think Koreans are shy about speaking with foreigners?” He said some people are. He said he liked Korean pancake and Kimchi but I didn’t understand Korean pancake. I asked him, “Korean pancake is Ddeok?” but he said no. Anyway, now I think Korean pancake is Bu-Chim-Ge.

In conclusion: I think I didn’t write many things down. I had so many funny times with these foreigners. I gave expression to my feelings, like “Wow! Really? Ha ha ha! You’re very handsome! Good!” But I don’t know how to write them all here. Anyway, I think this interview homework was so very very very good for me and my classmates. At first I was so scared of foreigners, but I’m not scared anymore. Now I know that speaking English with foreigners is a lot of fun and they like talking to anyone who speaks to them. Thank you for this homework. It was a very instructive experience.


With Jeff in front of the old Seoul Train Station

With Jeff in front of the old Seoul Train Station

For the interview assignment in the advanced class, I went out of the school and I took the bus. I intended to go to Seoul station as I guessed that was the place where many foreigners might visit. Jeff Reissman(?) (I wrote it down as he said it, but I’m not sure how to spell his family name) was one of the travelers in Seoul. When he was sitting on the bench in front of the station drinking a soda, I approached him with a hello. I had a nervous mind when I said hello, so I hesitated, “Uh, Uh…,” but Jeff answered me with a nice manner. I could feel he wasn’t someone who’s afraid of talking to somebody new.

Jeff said he was visiting Seoul, and he had been waiting for the train to Incheon Airport. I thought he had plenty of time to talk with me, but I decided not to speak too much. I was very careful of my manner at that time, and after introducing myself and my purpose to interview him, I started to ask him questions from my questionnaire.

I was wondering about what feeling he might have had when he first arrived in Seoul. This isn’t exactly what he said but in short, “Seoul is a big city a lot like Tokyo but with more hills, spicier food, and prettier girls.” When he mentioned the Korean girls, I burst into a giggle and asked him why he thought that Japanese girls weren’t prettier than Korean girls. Jeff replied with a big smile, “They are pretty, I admit, but Korean girls are better.”

He continued to talk about his impression of Seoul, especially In-sa Dong. He went there a few hours ago and found a couple of the stationary shops in Ssamzie Gil which looked interesting to him.

Jeff, however, also mentioned a bad impression, that Korean restaurants don’t open at 8 am. His mouth was watering for more Bibimbap in the early morning, but there were no restaurants open at that time so he went to McDonald’s. In addition to that, even though some restaurants were open and every restaurant he walked into had someone cleaning and vacuuming the tables and floor, when they saw his face, they would make an X sign and shake their heads.

Finally, I asked the last question because I didn’t want to keep him any longer. It was, “Is it okay or normal for you to speak to somebody new?” Jeff replied, “I really don’t have a nervous feeling when I meet someone new. I guess it’s because I don’t really care if they like me or not. Most people feel nervous because they don’t want to embarrass themselves or look stupid.” I thought that’s a more natural way to be. I was afraid of meeting someone new because I just don’t want to be embarrassed. After saying thank you for the interview, we asked a middle-aged Japanese couple to take a photo of us in front of Seoul station, and then he went into the station.

I had had a vague feeling about talking to someone new until this meeting with Jeff. He had a clearer thought than me about that, and I admitted I was so afraid of what other people might think of me. However, it doesn’t matter, and I realized that talking to someone new is an interesting experience and everything about it is up to me. It was a good and pleasant experience and I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet somebody new.

* * *

An Unforgettable Experience, by 최준영 ~ The Joy of Speaking English!

Meeting foreigners in Insa-dong

Meeting foreigners in Insa-dong

The following is a report from one of my Kookmin University students in 2008, after completing the scariest assignment I ever gave them. Robin


To be honest with you, I had been worried about the assignment of interviewing foreigners for quite a while. It’s because having a conversation with foreigners is like a big obstacle which seems unconquerable to me. For no special reason, I’m afraid of speaking in English and taking initiative in starting conversation with foreigners. Whenever I imagine myself with a foreigner, I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach, so I braced myself up to start my assignment.

At first I looked around my campus for the interview, only to find no one to talk to. I searched every corner including the students’ cafeteria, dormitory, and everywhere foreign students seem to poke about. However, I ended up finding no one after searching for an hour. I got desperate and decided to go to Insa-dong, which is a big tourist attraction.

As I expected, there were many foreigners there. I was relieved and glad to see them. However, I told myself, “What am I supposed to say to them?” Even though I practiced the questions to open the conversation over and over again, I was at a loss. In fact, I lost lots of chances to talk to them because I thought someone would laugh at me if I speak in English. I was not confident and too shy to open my mouth. One hour passed while I was complicated with lots of thoughts discouraging me.

Then I made up my mind to approach a foreigner without fail. At the moment, two foreigners were coming in my direction. I quickly moved myself close to them. “Excuse me, but would you help me do my homework, that is to interview a foreigner?” It was the first time for me to talk to a foreigner that I’d never met.  As soon as I completed this sentence, I got thrilled. Moreover, when they smiled mildly at me and showed a gesture of understanding, I felt encouraged to say more.

At first, I asked their names, and I got to know that one is Margaret Healy and the other is Gayle Fransworth. Margaret was kind enough to let me know that Margaret is a given name and Healy is her surname. The more I talked with them, the more confident I became to speak English. I assumed it would be impolite to ask how old they are, so instead of their age, I asked where they came from. They told me that they’re from Australia. Confused whether they said Austria or Australia, I asked them to say it one more time. Gayle clearly and slowly enunciated the word Au-stra-li-a. She also told me it seemed desirable to practice English with well prepared questions. 

I asked them many other questions. They told me they were supposed to go shopping, and then they’ll have Bibimbap because Bibimbap is one of their favorite Korean dishes. My face got reddish when they asked me out for Bibimbap together. After such a pleasant interview, I thanked them for their time and gave them my best wishes for their stay in Korea.

Compared to their bright smiles and friendly gestures, I was a little tensed, and showed a lack of eye contact. Although I was a little nervous to speak in a foreign language, I was unconsciously influenced by the Korean culture in which having direct eye contact with adults is considered rude. I don’t think I had a perfect conversation with them, but this opportunity will definitely be a stepping stone to improve my conversation skill in English. In short, I gained more confidence in speaking English than ever. I am no more afraid of speaking English, and confident in opening conversations with people from another country. This precious experience had a positive impact on learning English for me. I appreciate our professor for providing me with this kind of unforgettable opportunity.



When I first discovered these books I was teaching conversation skills at a university in Korea. I was blown away the very first day, and have never looked back since. Try them. You will be glad you did!

Discussion Strategies: Beyond Everyday Conversation

Conversation Strategies & Discussion Strategies
Pair and Group Activities for Developing Communicative Competence
David and Peggy Kehe, Pro Lingua Associates (PLA)

Discussion Strategies, Beyond Everyday Conversation presents a series of strategies we all know and use regularly in everyday conversation (rejoinders, follow-up and clarification questions, comprehension checks, etc.) The course approach, where each lesson builds on the one before, provides repeated opportunities for students to practice what they have learned. The teacher’s role is one of facilitator and coach, while students practice initiating on their own. The goal is communication, not accuracy, and the topics are chosen for their high-interest and relevancy to students’ lives.

Task-based structure empowers lower level students, while providing a healthy challenge for all levels (lower-intermediate to advanced) so this series works well in a mixed level classroom. Fully engaging, this is a must-try conversation strategy course that works! Liberate your students to discover that they really can speak English!

A companion book, Conversation Strategies, is for lower-level students, and is FULL of great lesson plans for teachers who are not sure how to get their students talking. You and your students will love it!

Level 1

Level 1