How to start a conversation in English with anyone (and not be shy)

By 3 September 2017 Video lessons 9 Comments
how to start a conversation in English

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. You know, when I ask my fluency coaching students about their difficulties in English a lot of people talk about shyness. They feel shy. They’re afraid to start a conversation in English. They don’t know what to say. They feel so afraid!

Awww, that’s no good. So today you’ll learn 8 easy ways to just start the conversation. Let’s go!

Oh, and before we do that. If you want to start a conversation, it’s a good idea to be able to understand the response. That’s what my American Accent Survival Guide is for. To help you understand Americans who talk fast, like when they respond to your questions. You can click here to get it for free.

Now, let’s start some conversations!

WITH TOURISTS

Poor tourists. They just wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower. They didn’t know that you were going to use them for language practice! Mwahaha! If you see tourists looking at a map, approach them. And say “Hi, can I help you find something? I’m from here!” “Hi, can I help you find something? I’m from here!” They’ll be happy you offered your help!

WHILE VISITING A CITY

Now, it’s your turn to be the tourist. And even if you’re visiting Italy, China, Spain, you can practice your English. And their accents may be easier than American accent! Approach someone and say “Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m not from here. Do you know a good restaurant around here?” “Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m not from here. Do you know a good restaurant around here?” And you’ll get some good food too!

AT YOUR HOTEL

We Americans love to make small talk! So if you’re visiting the United States, make small talk! It’s a fantastic way to approach Americans, and they’ll think you’re polite & friendly. For example, at if you’re getting food at the breakfast buffet of your hotel, say to the guy in front of you: “The coffee smells good! Are you here for vacation too?” “The coffee smells good! Are you here for vacation too?” And they’ll tell you about their trip!

IN A RESTAURANT

If you’re lucky to be invited to a restaurant, you can’t eat in silence. That’s…ick…awkward. Food is the easy topic at a restaurant, so you can just ask your host “What do you recommend that’s good?”  “What do you recommend that’s good?” This also works with the server, who will be happy to suggest a good dish! Bon appetit, as we say in American.

AT WORK, WITH COLLEAGUES YOU KNOW

Small talk at work is essential! Show your colleagues that you’re friendly by asking about them. There’s the classic “Do you have any plans for the weekend?” “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”, but if you want something more original, try this “Remind me, …” “Remind me, …” and ask about something you talked about in the past.

“Remind me, where do you live again?” “Remind me, what are you working on right now?” “Remind me, where are you going on vacation?” They’ll be happy you remembered that past conversation (even if you forgot the details).

AT WORK, WITH COLLEAGUES YOU DON’T KNOW

Oh, a new guy at work. Perfect! Someone to practice English with! Don’t be shy, go introduce yourself. How? By saying “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m (first name). Nice to meet you. What do you do here?” “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m (first name). Nice to meet you. What do you do here?” You never know, he might be the right person to talk to when you want an extra day off! It’s good to know the right people at work.

VISITING SOMEONE’S HOUSE

Oh, your American friend Lisa invited you to her house for a barbecue. High five for making friends in English! When you visit someone for the first time, it’s common to talk about the house. You can ask “How long have you lived here?”  “How long have you lived here?” Can you ask about how much they paid for the house? Eh… A lot of people are totally comfortable discussing it, but other people think it’s very personal. So maybe not, if it’s your first visit.

AT A SPORTS EVENT

Sports are a big part of American life, even if you’re not a big sports fan. We like the fun, the camaraderie, the entertainment. It’s a really relaxed atmosphere, and that means… small talk! It’s totally ok to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. “Have you been following the games this season?”  “Have you been following the games this season?” is a perfect question! And don’t worry if you don’t know much about the game. Americans are happy to explain the rules (or admit that they don’t understand either).

RECAP

So just to recap, here are the 8 expressions from today:

  • “Hi, can I help you find something? I’m from here!”
  • “Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m not from here. Do you know a good restaurant around here?”
  • “The coffee smells good! Are you here for vacation too?”
  • “What do you recommend that’s good?”
  • “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”
  • “Remind me, …”
  • “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m (first name). Nice to meet you. What do you do here?”
  • “How long have you lived here?”
  • “Have you been following the games this season?”

And to understand that American hot potato accent, go get my American Accent Survival Kit. It’ll really change the way you understand Americans.

Thanks so much for being part of the Speak English Community. I’m Christina, and I’ll see you next week!


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