ESL Speaking Games for Adults: The Key to Breaking Language Barriers

In this lesson, we share a list of fun and productive ESL speaking games for adults to help break down language barriers.

In addition, you will find practical examples of how each game can be used.

ESL Speaking Games for Adults: The Key to Breaking Language Barriers

Lesson Table of Contents

1) Two Truths and a Lie

    Example Dialogue of Playing Two Truths and a Lie

2) Taboo

    Example Dialogue of Playing Taboo

3) Story Starters

    Example Dialogue of Playing Story Starters

4) Guess Who

    Example Dialogue of Playing Guess Who

5) Desert Island

    Example Dialogue of Playing Desert Island

6) Call My Bluff

    Example Dialogue of Playing Call My Bluff

7) Role Play

    Example Dialogue of Playing Role Play

8) Debate

    Example Dialogue of Playing Debate

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

ESL Speaking Games

Two Truths and a Lie

In this game, each student shares three statements about themselves, but one of them is a lie. The rest of the class has to guess which one is fake. This game is perfect for practicing simple present tense and getting to know each other.

An example dialogue of playing Two Truths and a Lie:

Teacher: Alright, let's play "Two Truths and a Lie." I'll go first. (clears throat) Okay, here are my three statements: I have traveled to five different continents, I can speak three languages fluently, and I once competed in a hot dog eating contest.

Student 1: Hmm, I think the lie is that you've traveled to five different continents.

Teacher: Nope, that one is actually true! The lie is that I can speak three languages fluently. I wish I could, though.

Student 2Alright, my turn. Here are my three statements: I have a pet parrot, I've never been skydiving, and I can play the guitar.

Student 1: I think the lie is that you've never been skydiving.

Student 2Nope, that one is actually true. The lie is that I can play the guitar. I'm terrible at it.

And so on! This game is a great icebreaker and a fun way to get to know each other while practicing English skills.


In this game, one student is given a word to describe, but they can't use certain "taboo" words to do it. This game is great for practicing vocabulary and descriptive language.

An example dialogue of playing Taboo:

Teacher: Okay, let's play "Taboo." 

Teacher whispers to student 1: The word you need to describe is "beach," but you can't use the words "ocean" or "sand."

Student 1: Okay, it's a place where people go to swim and sunbathe. There are waves and seagulls and people build castles there.

Student 2: Is it the ocean?

Teacher: No, that's one of the taboo words.

Student 3: Is it a lake?

Student 1: No, it's not a lake. It's a long strip of land next to the water.

Student 2: Oh, is it a coastline?

Teacher: Close, but not quite. Keep going!

Student 1: Okay, you can play volleyball there and sometimes there are lifeguards. It's also a great place to watch the sunrise.

Student 3: Oh, I know! It's a beach!

Teacher: That's right! Great job, everyone. Now, let's switch roles and have another student give a word to describe.

And the best part is that as you keep playing, you'll get better at using words creatively and describing things without relying on the usual suspects. Plus, it's a great way to have fun and get to know other students better!

Story Starters

In this game, one student starts a story and passes it on to the next student to continue. This game is perfect for practicing past tense and storytelling skills.

An example dialogue of playing Story Starters:

Teacher: Alright, let's play "Story Starters." I'm going to give each of you the beginning of a story, and then you're going to take turns adding to it. Who wants to go first?

Student 1: I'll start.

Teacher: Okay, your story begins with: 

"The sun was shining and the birds were singing, but..."

Student 2: "...I was feeling miserable. I had just failed an important exam."

Student 3: "I walked home, kicking rocks as I went. I didn't want to face my parents and tell them the bad news."

Student 1: "But when I got home, I found a letter in the mailbox. It was from my favorite aunt, inviting me to visit her for the summer."

Student 2: "I hesitated for a moment, but then I realized that this was exactly what I needed. A change of scenery, some time away from my problems."

Student 3: "So I packed my bags and hopped on a train to my aunt's house. And that's where my summer adventure began."

This game is an excellent way to develop storytelling, creativity, and critical thinking skills while having a good time.

Guess Who

"Guess Who" is a speaking game where one student chooses a famous or historical person without telling the others, and the rest of the group takes turns asking yes or no questions to try and guess who the person is.

The student who chose the person can only answer "yes" or "no" to each question.

The game continues until someone correctly guesses the person, or until everyone has had a chance to ask a question.

This game is a fun way to practice descriptive language, asking questions, and critical thinking skills, while also learning about famous or historical figures.

An example dialogue of playing Guess Who:

Teacher: Let's play "Guess Who." I have thought of a famous person, and you have to guess who it is by asking me yes or no questions. Who wants to start?

Student 1: Is the person male?

Teacher: Yes.

Student 2: Is the person an actor?

Teacher: No.

Student 3: Is the person still alive?

Teacher: No.

Student 1: Was the person a musician?

Teacher: Yes.

Student 2Did the person play the guitar?

Teacher: No.

Student 3: Did the person have a hit song in the 1980s?

Teacher: Yes.

Student 1: Is the person Bruce Springsteen?

Teacher: No.

Student 2: Is the person Freddie Mercury?

Teacher: Yes, you got it! Great job, now it's your turn to think of a famous person.

And so on! This game is a fun way to practice asking questions, critical thinking skills, and learning about famous figures.

Desert Island

"Desert Island" is a speaking game where each student has to choose three items they would want to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island.

The items can be anything, but they have to be practical and useful for survival.

After each student has chosen their items, they have to explain why they chose them and how they would use them to survive on the island.

The game can also be played with variations such as choosing three people or three songs instead of items.

"Desert Island" is an interesting way to practice speaking skills, critical thinking, and creativity, while also learning about each other's preferences and priorities.

An example dialogue of playing Desert Island:

Teacher: Let's play "Desert Island." Imagine you are stranded on a desert island, and you can only bring three items with you. What would you choose? Who wants to start?

Student 1: I would bring a knife, a water filter, and a fire starter.

Teacher: Great choices! Why did you choose those items?

Student 1: Well, I'm not trying to recreate Rambo on this island, but a knife would be handy for slicing up some coconuts and building a nice treehouse. You can't survive long without water, so that filter is a no-brainer. And who doesn't love a good old fire? I'll be able to warm myself up, cook up some stuff, and hopefully flag down passing ships for a ride home.

Student 2I would bring a satellite phone, a solar-powered charger, and a waterproof tent.

Teacher: Another great set of choices! Why did you choose those items?

Listen, that satellite phone is going to be my ticket off this island. And who wants to be stuck with a dead phone battery during an emergency? Not me. That's why that solar charger is coming with me. I'm not a fan of the whole "sleeping in the rain" thing, so that waterproof tent is going to be helpful on the island.

Student 3: I would bring a fishing net, a pot, and a hammock.

Teacher: Those are some unique choices! Why did you choose them?

Student 3: The fishing net would help me to catch fish for food. The pot would allow me to boil water and cook food. And the hammock would provide me with a comfortable place to sleep and relax.

This game serves as an effective tool for practicing various speaking skills, such as descriptive language and persuasive reasoning, while also improving critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities.

Call My Bluff

"Call My Bluff" is a fun and challenging speaking game that can help students improve their vocabulary and critical thinking skills.

To play, the teacher or one of the students selects a word from a dictionary that most of the group is unlikely to know.

The person who selected the word reads to himself the definition and then makes up two false definitions for the word.

The other students then have to guess which definition is the correct one.

The student who guesses correctly gets a point, selects a new word and the game continues.

This game can be played in teams or individually, and it's a great way to learn new words and their meanings while also having fun and improving speaking skills.

An example dialogue of playing Call My Bluff:

Teacher: Okay, the word for this round is "flummox." (Reads to himself?: and the definition is "to greatly confuse.")

Teacher (out loud): Possible definitions of "flummox": (a) to make something shiny or bright, (b) to make someone very happy, (c) to confuse someone very much.

Student 1: Okay, I'll go first. It's (a), to make something shiny.

Student 2Hmm, I think it's (c) to confuse.

Teacher: Correct! That's one point for you. Now it's your turn to select a new word.

Student 2Sure, the next word is "collywobbles." (The real definition is "a feeling of discomfort or anxiety in the stomach.")

Student 2 (out loud): Alright, Collywobbles: (a) a type of candy, (b) a feeling of discomfort or anxiety in the stomach, (c) a type of bird.

Student 1: I'm pretty sure it's (b) a feeling of discomfort or anxiety in the stomach.

Student 3: That's right! How did you know that?

And so on, with players taking turns and trying to guess the correct definition. 

Role Play

In this game, students are given a scenario and assigned roles to play out. This is a useful way to practice specific language functions, such as making a complaint, giving directions, or ordering food at a restaurant.

An example dialogue of playing Role Play in an ESL class:

Teacher: "Today, we're going to practice some role plays. Let's start with a common scenario: ordering food in a restaurant. Student 1, you'll be the waiter, and Jay, you'll be the customer. Ready to start?"

Student 1: "Yes, I'm ready."

Student 2: "Sure, let's do this."

Teacher: "Okay, go ahead!"

Student 1: "Good evening, and welcome to our restaurant. What can I get for you today?"

Student 2: "Hi there, I'd like to order a steak, medium-rare, please."

Student 1: "Great choice! Would you like any sides with that?"

Student 2"Yes, I'd like some mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables."

Student 1: "Excellent. And would you like anything to drink?"

Student 2"Yes, I'll have a glass of red wine, please."

Student 1: "Wonderful. Your order is complete. Thank you for choosing our restaurant."

Teacher: "Great job! Now let's switch roles. Jay, you'll be the waiter, and Student 1, you'll be the customer."

And the role play continues with different scenarios, allowing students to practice real-life situations and improve their language skills.


In this game, students are given a controversial topic and assigned to argue for or against it. This allows students to practice persuasive language and logical reasoning.

An example dialogue of playing Debate:
(Topic: Is it better to work for a large company or a small one?)

Teacher: Okay, let's begin the debate. Mark, you will be arguing in favor of working for a large company, while Jay will be arguing in favor of working for a small company. You each have two minutes to make your arguments. Mark, you may begin.

Mark: Thank you. I strongly believe that working for a large company is the better option.

Large companies have more resources, which means more opportunities for growth and development.

They also offer better benefits and job security. With a large company, you have more chances to network and meet new people, which can lead to more career opportunities.

Jay: Yeah, I get where you're coming from, but let me give you my take on this. Working for a small company is far better. In a small company, you have the chance to wear many hats, learn various skills and take on more responsibilities. You are not just another cog in the machine. You have a greater sense of ownership over your work and the company, which makes the job more fulfilling.

Mark: That may be true, but in a small company, you have fewer resources, less job security, and limited opportunities for growth. Large companies have more support systems in place, such as training programs and mentorship opportunities, which can help employees develop and advance in their careers.

Jay: But in a small company, you have more autonomy and freedom. You are not restricted by strict rules and regulations like you are in a large company. In a small company, you can make a real impact and effect change.

Mark: I totally get it. But I think there's another side to this debate that we should consider. Working for a large company provides stability and security. In a small company, you may not have that same level of job security or stability, especially if the company is not doing well financially.

Jay: I understand your point that working for a big company is more stable, but I disagree. Sometimes, big companies are not financially secure, and small companies can be more adaptable to market changes, which can lead to long-term success and job security. We need to consider other factors beyond company size for job stability and security.

Teacher: Okay, thank you both for your arguments. It seems that both of you have made valid points. I'll let the class vote to determine the winner. 

Teacher (to the class): Who had the more convincing arguments?

Let's take a quick poll by raising our hands.

This concludes this list of ESL speaking games for adults. Use these games in class and watch your students' speaking skills improve. 

Remember to mix things up and try new games from time to time to keep your classes fresh and engaging.

In addition to using these games, don't forget to encourage your students to speak as much as possible in class. Create a positive and supportive environment where students feel comfortable practicing their language skills without fear of making mistakes

Praising their efforts and offering constructive feedback can go a long way in boosting their confidence and motivation to learn.

Lastly, consider using short stories to enhance your ESL classes. We have many storybooks and workbooks available that can help you create engaging and productive lessons.

So if anyone tells you that learning a new language has to be boring, just give them a wink and say "I've got a game for that!"

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