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Gain fluency and self-confidence: Small talk

6 years ago
Making small talk is an expected part of social behavior, but it isn’t always easy.

Speakers must meet certain expectations and must talk about appropriate subjects. These subjects are different from one culture to another, so small talk, which may once have come naturally, must now be intentional. Follow these rules and the topics suggested below will give you a chance to practice what to say when you’re face to face with someone new and want to get the conversation started:

1. Make statements.
2. Then ask questions.
3. Offer a piece of information about something trivial or mildly personal.
4. Ask something mildly personal or about the weather or current events.

Listen carefully and try to respond with full sentences, not just “yes” or “no”.

Talking about the weather is one of the simplest ways to make chitchat or small talk with someone you don’t know very well:
“Nice weather!”
“That’s right! It’s sunny/snowing/nice and warm.”
“Nasty weather!”
“Oh, yes, it is so cold/warm/humid/windy out today!”
“Well, it looks like it is going to rain, doesn’t it?”
“Oh, I don’t mind a little rain, as long as I don’t get wet.”
“Sure, I like rain too, if I don’t have to go out”.
Asking mildly personal questions is a great way to make chitchat, but the questions should never be too personal, such as family and health (as long as it is nothing too serious):
“How’s the family?”
“All fine, except my daughter has a cold”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it’s nothing serious.”
“No, not at all. Just the usual with this weather.”
“I hope she gets better.”
“Thank you, I’m sure she’ll be all right in a couple days.”
Current events are another great topic for casual conversation:
Did you hear about that rock star who died in a car accident?”
“Did you watch the news last night?”
“What do you think about … ?”
Find some common ground. This may be more of a challenge because you cannot rely on preplanned questions. Still, you might be comfortable talking about your own interests, like certain type of music, a hobby, something you collect or like to do, any interest that another person might share. To find common ground with someone else, your students can ask questions like these:
“What do you do in your free time?”
“ What kind of music do you like?”
“ Did you do anything interesting this weekend?”

Remember to try and keep the conversation on a shallow level so as to avoid getting into uncomfortable situations. For example, discussing politics, religion, money and personal age or weight can become too personal for small talk.

If you want to have an enjoyable learning experience and improve your fluency, please do not hesitate to contact me for a trial lesson. See you soon!