Small talk is a term used for short, sometimes impersonal conversations in English between people who don’t know each other well. The goal of these conversations is often to get to know each other better. These tips will guide you through the things that non-native speakers should know about small talk in English.
-Project a positive attitude by smiling warmly and speaking in a calm voice. Your body language should also convey that you’re interested in what the other person has to say. Sit or stand upright with your shoulders squared, facing toward the person you’re speaking with, and maintain eye contact. Avoid crossing your arms or turning away from the person; this indicates you’re either defensive or not interested in the conversation. By introducing yourself in a friendly manner and asking light-hearted, open-ended questions, you show others you want to engage in conversation and learn more about them.
-Knowing what to talk about after introducing yourself is key to holding conversations in English. Stick to casual topics, like music, movies, occupations, sports, or books, to learn which interests you have in common. Follow the natural course of the conversation; ask follow-up questions, but don’t fire off a list of one question after another, or the conversation will feel more like an interview.
-Practice actively listening by maintaining eye contact and asking follow-up questions when appropriate. Using the person’s name during the conversation will show you’re listening to them, and it will help you remember their name in the future.
-Small talk in English often consists of comments about the weather, so practicing English weather vocabulary can help improve your conversational skills. Consider making weather flashcards to help you learn basic terms like hot, cold, sunny, rainy, snowy, or windy.
Holding conversations in English can be intimidating to non-native speakers, but with these simple tips for improving small talk skills, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming an expert conversationalist!
Photo Credit: David Goehring