Better English Conversation | Tips to improve your speaking skills
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So… You want to have great English conversations. You want to be more interesting and fun when you speak English! Great, I’ve got 5 tips to help you in this lesson. These tips will take your English conversational skills to the next level. It goes beyond small talk.
When you improve your English speaking skills, a whole new world will open up. A world that’s full of great stories from different people, a world where you feel comfortable listening to and speaking in English. I want to help you talk to someone for hours, genuinely listen, and give great responses.
Better English conversation has a few important ingredients – facial expression, tone, great questions that spark ideas and keep the conversation going.
If you take one or two (or all!) of these tips to improve your speaking skills, make sure you go out and practise – maybe at work, a networking event, a bar – wherever! If you keep practising, then doing these things will become part of your normal, everyday speaking practice.
CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.
Wait, wait, wait. Let me try that again.
Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. In this video, I’m going to help you to have better English conversations by giving you a few tips to help you improve your speaking skills.
Now you can use these tips to have really interesting, fun conversations and if you’re someone who likes getting to know people and if you want to improve your English by having longer, more meaningful conversations then this lesson is for you.
I’ve also put together a really fun challenge and I’m going to tell you all about it at the end of this video so make sure you keep watching. And remember to like the video, hit that subscribe button.
Let’s get into it!
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Have you ever been part of a conversation with someone where it feels like they just can’t wait to leave? You know they’re looking around like they want to run away or what’s happening outside the window is way more interesting than what you’re saying. Maybe there’s a lot of sighing.
Oh my goodness, it is so uncomfortable but whose fault is this? Do you remember at the beginning of this video? Let’s recap.
Hello, I’m Emma. I am from mmmEnglish.
That was all my fault. It was pretty dull. Did you notice that I used more formal language when I spoke? I said hello instead of my usual hey and I added some unnecessary pauses instead of just allowing the sentence to flow.
I used the passive voice instead of the active voice. My tone was flat and monotonous and I had little facial expression but when I changed the greeting to something more relaxed and conversational, the mood completely changed, didn’t it?
It went from being stiff and formal to being relaxed and fun. When I changed from a passive voice to an active voice it helped you to feel more involved like we were going to be doing this, working on this together and we are.
All of these are really small subtle changes but they can make a big difference when you’re speaking. So I’m going to show you a few common phrases, maybe a little dull phrases and responses and then give you a few tips on how you can improve them, how you can make your conversations more engaging, fun and help people to really love speaking with you.
So a really common question, one that you have to answer all the time is “How are you?” but if you respond with “I’m fine” well you’re not really making anyone want to hang around and talk with you, right? So a better way to respond might be
- I’m great, thanks! I went to the spa today and had a lovely time. How about you?
But why is the second response so much better? I’ll tell you.
It is so hard to have a good conversation with someone if you are responding with just two words and these two words are said so often there is nothing interesting or inspiring about the conversation and no desire to continue right? But remember, our goal is to have great English conversations. You want to invite that person to keep speaking with you.
I also added some extra details and asked a follow-on question which gives them a chance to respond to you. I also used a really easy going friendly tone, I had a smile on my face. It gets the conversation off to a great start.
All right what about those times when someone tells you about something that they’ve done, something really fun and you do think that it’s great. So you probably know, you’ve got heaps of responses up your sleeve. You could say:
- That’s cool
- Well that’s nice
But then they look at you and the conversation sort of dies down a little. You didn’t really say anything wrong but maybe they were hoping you were more enthusiastic and don’t forget you really did think their story was great so perhaps a better thing to say might be:
- Ahh, that’s wonderful. When did you start doing that?
So why shouldn’t you say that’s cool or that’s nice or that’s good? But they’re just words that are used way too often. They can be used for almost anything. People get a little bit bored of hearing them.
So in this case, because you were so impressed or you were so interested or excited about what they had to say, we’ve got to level up our language to help show that enthusiasm.
You want to use more interesting adjectives like incredible, wonderful or my favourite that I use all the time is epic.
Now epic is a little more casual than the other options but it really does help to show your enthusiasm. Now with all of these responses we want to make sure you’ve got a positive enthusiastic tone, you’re excited, right?
So get ready to practise after me.
- Wow! That’s incredible! When did you start doing that?
Okay so imagine this. You’re sitting down with your colleague at lunch and you can’t wait to tell them about this crazy dream that you’ve had.
You start talking about the dungeons and the dragons and the frogs with wings and fairies that barked but then you notice they’re actually staring off into the distance and they’re not really interested at all.
I mean, you’ve been talking about this in a great amount of detail for maybe five minutes now. But they’re not really paying any attention.
All right so if you want to have a great conversation with someone, telling them a long story about your crazy wild dream is probably not gonna help you get there. It’s better to keep your story short and to involve them in some way.
Ask for their opinion about it, get them in on the discussion.
- I dreamt about barking fairies last night. It was a little strange. What do you think it means?
I mean, they probably won’t know what it means but at least you’re not having a one-sided conversation. You’re inviting them in and that is one of the keys to incredible conversations.
Imagine your flatmate has just told you about the long day that they’ve had. They seem really down, perhaps a little tired. So you say “Don’t worry, just be positive!”
Now I know that you have good intentions with this but it is a phrase that is used so often, so often it can kind of seem a little insensitive. So instead you could say something like:
- That sounds like an exhausting day. Is there anything that I can do to help?
So the first part of the response expresses empathy, it lets them know that you understand how they’re feeling and of course, showing empathy can get someone to open up more.
It lets them know that you care. When you want to ask about someone’s day you might simply say:
- How are you?
- How’s it going?
But you could also try mixing it up a little bit.
- Did you have a good day?
I mean people are so accustomed to hearing “How are you?” that they respond without thinking.
How are you?
Good, thanks. How are you?
But remember our goal here is great conversations and making sure our conversation keeps going.
So even if we just change the words a little bit and we add something a bit more inquisitive, an upbeat tone then they’ll probably change the way that they respond to you as well.
What not to say:
Hey Emma! How you going?
I’m fine, thanks. And you?
I’m fine too.
What to say:
- Hey Emma! Have you had a good day so far?
- Yeah I had a great day! I went to the beach for a swim and then I’ve just finished meeting with the mmmEnglish design team about our new website. How about you?
All right, now I’ve got a little challenge for you. You’re going to hear three different contexts or different examples of things that people might say to you and I want you to think about the best way to respond in order to keep the conversation going.
Try to think of fun, interesting and engaging ways to continue the conversation. Ready?
1. So your friend asks you about a movie that you saw last night. It was a movie that you absolutely loved and you really enjoyed the acting. What kind of thing could you say?
So I might say:
- It was fantastic! I really loved the actors.
So when someone asks you a question like this, try to change up the words that you use. Give a little bit more detail to keep things interesting.
2. Now imagine your friend tried skydiving for the first time. What would you say to them when they told you about what they did over the weekend? I’d say:
- That’s epic! What was it like?
Now the word epic is way cooler than cool. It’s not said as often so it’s more fun and engaging and meaningful and asking that follow-on question helps to keep the conversation going, doesn’t it?
3. Okay how about this scenario? Your friend has just told you that they received a low score on their IELTS test. What would you say? I’d say:
- IELTS exams are so tough. I’m sure many people feel the same way. What can I do to help you feel better?
When a friend is feeling down or they’ve had some bad luck, showing empathy and offering to help shows them that you’re listening, it also invites the conversation to keep going, right?
Definitely don’t show up telling them what they should have done or how they could have done it better. That’s not very helpful at all.
So that’s five boring, dull expressions out the window and five new phrases and tips to keep your conversations going, to keep them interesting. I hope that this video helps you to have longer, more meaningful, more interesting conversations in English.
And if you want to keep building your vocabulary to have these great conversations then these videos right here will help you to do exactly that.
Make sure you hit subscribe and I will see you in the next lesson. Bye for now!
Links mentioned in the video
How to understand Australians | Slang Words & Expressions
Small Talk | Useful Phrases & Questions for Everyday Conversation
How To Stay Motivated When Learning English