Keeping up a conversation in a second language can be tough. Not knowing what to say next can lead to awkward silences, which isn’t fun for you or the person you are speaking to. Use these five simple tips to avoid awkward silences, make sure your English conversations always flow fluently and have fun chatting in English.
Greet and respond
We all know how to say “Hello” in English but that’s usually only the first part of a greeting. It’s common to ask a person how they are by saying “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” as part of a greeting. You can ask this question to get the chat started or you can wait for the other person to ask you. If the other person asks you first, you can respond “Very well, thanks” or “Great, thanks” if you are in a good mood and “OK, thanks” or “I’m so-so” if you’re not feeling so great.
Add a little extra
A simple response to a greeting is fine, but if you a really want to get chatting, you’ll need to add a bit more information. So, after your initial response, keep going and provide more information about what is happening in your life. It could be about what you’re doing at the moment or, it could be about a recent event in your life: “Great! I’ve just started a new job, and I love it!” Providing more information gives the person you’re talking with something to respond to, and this is helps the conversation flow more fluently.
Turn the question around
A chat is a two-way interaction. You don’t have to speak all the time to make the conversation flow. Asking a question is a good way to take a break and let the other person do the talking for a bit. If you can’t think of a question to ask, just use the same one your conversation partner asked you. This can be a really simple way of keeping the conversation going as all you need to do is add “How about you?” to the end of your answer to encourage the other person to speak.
Follow-up and initiate
After someone comments on what they’ve been doing, good conversationalists will then follow-up and initiate more conversation. For example, if your friend just said he started a new job, you can follow up with “Oh, really?”, and then initiate by asking him a question about it: “So what company are you working for?” With each response, listen carefully, share your thoughts and keep asking more open-ended questions, or questions that require a long response, not just a one-word answer.
It sounds strange, but we don’t just listen with our ears. Make eye contact with the person you are speaking to and use your body language to show you are interested in what they are saying. Nod if you agree and use discourse markers like “uh-huh”, “yes” and “ok” to show you are interested. Active listening encourages your conversation partner to continue speaking.
Remember, chatting should be a relaxing activity. A chat is an informal discussion so relax, remember the tips above and have enjoy having a fluent conversation in English.