Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Conversation 101

Conversation 101

Improve Your Conversations

Conversation 101 is just the first step on your journey to better conversations. This is just a taste with some quick examples.

The best way to have more interesting conversations, improve your conversation skills and get to know someone is by asking them open questions to try to get them to talk about themselves. It is also useful for improving your listening skills because they will talk more if you ask good questions. It’s important to be both natural and careful when you do this. It’s important to avoid asking sensitive questions.

Let’s look at a specific situation. Imagine it is your first day of university.  The following questions are good ones to get to know your classmates.

Note: If you don’t know the person’s name, you should first ask What’s your name? ?

Conversation 101 for the First Day of University

  1. What’s your major? (Your major is the main subject you are studying. In Korean it is 학부, which translates to department, but in English we don’t use department for student’s course of study.)
  2. What did you do over winter/summer vacation?
  3. What do you usually do on weekends? or What are your plans for the weekend?

Imagine 2 people are talking: A and B. Each question that A asks should be followed by additional follow-up questions based on what B says. Follow-up questions help make your conversation longer and more interesting.

For example:

A: What’s your major?

B: Automotive Engineering.

A: That’s my major too. What do you like best about your major?

Note: Asking what someone likes best about something is just one example of a possible follow-up question. It can be used in many different situations for many different topics. For example, What did you like best about your trip to Japan?

More examples can be found in the post How to Ask Better Follow-up Questions.

Conversation 101 for Elementary, Middle, and High School Students

We’ll change the order of this because the students are younger and it’s more fun to focus on their leisure time (free time). ⚽⚾

  1. What did you do over winter/summer vacation?
  2. What subject do you like? (Subjects: math, English, science, art, music, history, etc.)
  3. What do you usually do in your free time?

Example 1:

A: What did you do over summer vacation?

B: I went to Japan with my family.

A: Really? That sounds fun. What did you like best about Japan?

Example 2:

A: What subject do you like?

B: I don’t like any subject.

A: That’s too bad. What subject is the most difficult?

Example 2 shows that is it important to be prepared for answers that can end a conversation. To keep the conversation going, you simply change your follow-up question. The question above is just one example. Another is Why not? This is an SSNQ (Short Simple Natural Follow-up Question) for the longer question: Why don’t you like any subjects?

Example 3:

A: What do you usually do in your free time?

B: Play video games (Note: When speaking, there is no need to speak in complete sentences: I like to play video games.)

A: Cool! What games? (Note: To learn more about reduced questions, visit: Short Simple Natural Follow-up Questions. These are a game changer!) (Game changer = something new that changes something in a very big and good way.)

Speak More English

If you are ready to learn more, I recommend learning practical English expressions and then exploring all the information about how to improve your conversations.  Use the practical English expressions frequently to speak more English as you are learning. These expressions are essential to helping you understand and learn English!

For tips on how to improve your English and begin to think in English, check out Emma’s advice on the Resources page

If you want to improve your listening comprehension and understand native speakers more easily, I recommend learning reductions.

If you are ready to really commit to improving your speaking, one of the best things to do is find an inexpensive course. While there are millions of free resources on the Internet, human nature is lazy. We often do not commit to our own learning unless there is a price attached.

While I do not offer courses at this time, I do recommend inexpensive ones by Espresso English. There are also lots of free samples if you don’t have a budget for learning English. Here’s the speaking course.

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I only recommend trusted courses that I believe will help you improve your English.

Never stop learning!