One of the hardest steps in learning a foreign language is finding the confidence to start a conversation. This is especially difficult when the other person is a native speaker. Here are some tips to help you break the ice.
1. Opening lines
The first step is to break the ice (start the conversation). You can introduce yourself with: “Hello, my name is…” or try a more relaxed approach like “Hi, I’m…” You can follow up your greeting with a simple question like “Where do you come from?” or a comment on the weather if you’re outside, e.g. “It’s really cold today isn’t it?”
It’s a good idea to start with something easy and impersonal to help you build your confidence. The subject of weather is an easy one that everyone in the world is able to talk about!
2. Suitable Topics
A good way to keep a conversation going is to talk about something you’ve got in common. For example if you meet someone at a party, you could ask them how they know the host. Or if you’re standing in line for the bus, you could sigh and say “Don’t you just hate waiting in line!”
After that, the best thing to do is to ask your new friend about him or herself: “Where do you work?” or “What do you like to do in your spare time?” are good questions when getting to know someone. Remember, everyone likes to talk about themselves!
3. Appropriate Responses
To keep a conversation going it’s important to respond to what people say, for example “That must be interesting!” or “Really? I’ve never tried that.” You could also repeat what the person says and ask a follow-up question, like “You lived in Paris? For how long?”
4. Listening Techniques
Having a conversation in the ‘real world’ is always more challenging than talking in the classroom. But don’t give up! Remember, you don’t have to understand every word: concentrate on the words that you do understand instead of getting stuck on the ones you don’t.
Finally, don’t forget to be polite, or you may ‘put your foot in it’ and say something embarrassing. Mistakes like these can end a conversation before they even start.