Discussion Skills For ESL Students

ESL students and group discussions

One of the areas that ESL students want to improve is discussion skills.   In some educational system, that skill is not usually practiced in the classroom.   So when some of my university students find themselves in group discussions with American students, they are at a loss.

Common reasons why ESL students do not participate in group discussions

There are several common reasons.   The speaking pace is so fast that it takes concentration just to follow the discussion.  By the time they formulate what to say, the topic has changed.  They want to make sure they are speaking correct English when they participate.  It takes courage to jump in the middle of a discussion.

Why learning discussion skills benefit ESL students

In many university classes, participation accounts for 1/3 of the grade.   This alone is reason enough to develop this skill.   Many international students excel in their studies EXCEPT this area, and receive a lower grade than their work deserves.

Participation is about contribution of your ideas.   Whether it’s in the classroom or in the workplace, what if your idea presents the solution?  If you feel uncomfortable talking in a discussion group, the class or company would lose out.

In this culture, those who share their good ideas are perceived to have leadership skills.   Wouldn’t it be nice if you were perceived that way, and be considered for career advancement?   Wouldn’t it be nice to have your good ideas implemented in the company?

Developing discussion skills for international students

The article Participating in group discussions for immigrants provides some helpful tips on how to develop this skill.   They apply to both international students and immigrant employees who want to feel comfortable sharing ideas in group settings.

The tips for companies in this article can also apply to university professors who want their international students to join in class discussions.

You can click here to read the entire article.

If you would like me to address other topics, please email me at support@englisharoundtheworld.com

If you find this blog helpful, you might also like this one on Interview Skills for ESL Professionals.


Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email support@englisharoundtheworld.com

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