Use small talk before your big conversations

December 20, 2021
Small talk is a shortcut for building confidence to jump into conversations.

Do you sometimes feel left out of English conversations taking place around you at school, work, or during online meetings? Learners often express this feeling, even those who speak English at an advanced level. I also have experienced this feeling when I try to join a conversation in a foreign language. I want to share with you a shortcut to help you prepare and build confidence to jump into conversations. 

First, let’s think about the reason why it can be difficult to join a conversation. This happens usually because we feel uncomfortable or intimidated but it is not necessarily about our speaking skill. In other words, sometimes our worries get in the way too much.

The shortcut to joining English conversations is to first do small talk to get to know people better.

What is small talk? Small talk is a short chat about random topics in random locations. It is almost impossible to make a mistake with small talk. You might talk about a good movie with a coworker in the office kitchen, or about your pet needing a shampoo with your boss in the hallway, or recommend a coffee shop to your professor who you bumped into at the library. 

For small talk, you do not need fancy vocabulary or perfect pronunciation. You just need to be curious about other people. What are their favorite foods? How do they spend their free time? Do they like to laugh? Once you have done that, then it will be much easier to share your ideas and opinions next time you have an important conversation.

New Voice Learning has prepared lessons to help learners practice small talk. Check out these examples:

Favorite sports - sharing about sports that you enjoy doing or watching

Talking about beers: IPAs - food and drinks are often a popular topic

Check out at the supermarket - this is small talk central! Cashiers are super chatty in the U.S.

Asking someone’s opinion - what do you think about travel during the pandemic?

With a few minutes of practice every day, you will get better and more comfortable with small talk. As you master small talk, it will get easier to jump into meaningful conversations.

You can do it! Believe in yourself!

Matthew Sussman
Matthew Sussman
CEO, Co-founder