Having conversations in English can be one of the most challenging tasks when it comes to English-language learning. Many tend to avoid them for fear of making mistakes. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to be great at conversations in English.
1) Choose a suitable topic. Examples of topics to avoid: religion, politics, sexual orientation, weight, or anything personal. Topics to consider: hobbies, (non-controversial) current events, the weather, food, or anything light.
2) Break the ice. Begin conversations by being friendly. Avoid beginning with “Hello, I would like to speak English with you.” The best way to have great conversations in English is to speak in a natural, non goal-oriented context.
3) Stay on topic. Respond to what someone says, rather than abruptly starting a new topic.
4) Ask questions. If you just smile and nod when you don’t understand, you’ll miss out on the details. Most English speakers will be happy to clarify any misunderstandings.
5) Make mistakes. Having a good conversation doesn’t always require perfect grammar or word choice. Be clear, be calm. A good attitude goes further than perfection.
6) Absorb English. That being said, improving your language never hurts! Seek out exercises in English. Check out our resources on this blog. Read short articles in English. Watch an English-language TV show or movie. Even if you don’t understand every word, you’ll absorb language patterns and nuances in the process.
7) Practice by having an all-English day. You can try this with a good friend or colleague. Though challenging, it helps build confidence.
8) Challenge yourself. Learn a new word every day. Create personal goals for yourself.
9) Find a language partner. Whether found online or in person, having someone to practice with will help you improve.
10) Relax. Don’t turn conversation into a homework assignment. The more you have them, the better you will get.
A question I get asked a lot is “How can I join in on a conversation if I don’t understand every word?” You don’t need to understand “every word” to join in on a conversation!
When I started learning Spanish, there were many times that I understood less than half of the words I was hearing. This is totally normal and should be expected. Accept it as part of the learning process.
What you can do instead is learn to deduce, based on the context of the conversation and non-verbal signals, and fill in the gaps thanks to the one or two words you do understand.
And for your part of the conversation, don’t forget to use connectors to ease the flow. What do you think?