Tips on making “small talk”

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For the majority of my students, making “small talk,” or short conversation with strangers or co-workers, is the most difficult part about using their daily conversational English. Here are some tips that I have found useful when making small talk:

1) Talk about the weather.
This one seems to be common in most cultures. Some examples are,

  • “The weather today is beautiful, isn’t it?”
  • “I can’t believe how (hard it is raining/sunny it is/much snow is) outside!”
  • “What are they calling for* tomorrow?/They are calling for* (rain/snow/sunshine/clouds) tomorrow.”

*A main point you should remember is to use the phrase “calling for.” This is another way to say “to forecast,” or “to predict.” In American English, it is much more common to use “calling for” than “forecast” (“forecast” seems too professional or proper in some cases). Try using this next time you talk about the weather.

2) Talk about the latest news
Here are some ways to bring up a topic:

  • “Did you hear about….”
  • “I can’t believe the news about….”
  • “What do you think about….”(used often for discussing opinion)
  • “Did you see….” (used often for news stories on TV)

3) Talk about something you have in common.
If you are talking to your co-worker, this is a great chance to talk about things you have in common. Some examples are:

  • “What do you think about the new (item in the office)”
  • “I love your shoes! Where did you get them?”
  • “Did you watch the game last night? What did you think?” (for talking about sports)
  • “Have you eaten at any good restaurants lately?”

The list could go on and on! I’ll update it again soon, but for now, try to use these phrases next time you’re making small talk! You might even be surprised that you’re talking too much at work!

I’d be happy to answer any questions, and leave your own tips if you have them!

“Oo” vs. “W” – Especially for my Japanese students!

This topic is one that doesn’t seem to be a problem for some people when learning English, but I’ve seen that it can be especially difficult for Japanese learners. Because most Japanese learn with カタカナ(katakana), some of the sounds are not exactly right.

For example,

ウ is the English sound for “oo,”  as in “blue,” “chew,” or “do.”

Unfortunately, sometimes theウ sound is also understood to be the “w” sound as in “would” or “winter.” Actually. these “w” sounds do not exist in the Japanese language. It will take some extra training to learn how to move your mouth to pronounce this sound. You can do it!

oo

Above is a picture of pronouncing “ウ” or “oo,” that most of you know how to do.   Simply make a small circle with your lips when you are pronouncing the sound (find the full lesson here).

w

This picture, however, is more difficult to do. Try to focus on closing your lips a little more, and bringing them in closer to your teeth. Also, the “w” sound is not a whole syllable like the “ウ” sound, it is only the first part of a longer sound. So, say it quickly.

Try to pronounce these words without using the “ウ” sound:

Winter.
Weather.
Where.
Win.
Sweet.
Rewind.
When.
Why.
While.

Did it sound different from the “ウ” sound? If not, try again and listen to the lesson here. Keep trying until you get the sound you want, practice makes a better English speaker!

Lets Learn aLL about *L’s*

How difficult was that sentence to say? If you are like most ESL learners, it wasn’t so easy. Below are some of my favorite resources on how to pronounce the English *L*.

Image

Start with this lesson from pronuncian.com. It will explain in detail the mechanics, or step-by-step movements, of how to move your mouth in the sound of an L.

Next- I have a really fun video to watch. This is Amy Walker, who is not an English teacher but a professional actress who has excellent accent skills. In this video she clearly explains how to practice the L sound, and also does a warm-up for the first minute or two. It may seem silly, but warm-ups and practice are the key to mastering English!

*NOW: go back and re-read this blog post using your L skills!!*
(the L’s are highlighted in bold)

What is so difficult about English? 英語の何が難しいですか?