Small talk is important at work – nobody wants to talk about work all day.
One of the bonus lessons in our pronunciation training is on small talk. It gives examples of topics that you can chat with native English speakers about and gives examples of sentences to use. Some of my favourite topics to get those native English speakers talking are.
Families – most people are happy to talk about the family “Do you have any brothers or sisters / kids / pets?”, especially those with children. Names / ages / where people live / do any family members work or study / where do the kids go to school. All great questions to learn more about your colleagues.
Sport – many people love to chat about sport. If you didn’t grow up with the local sport it’s a great excuse to ask more. ‘Where can I see a game / who are the best players / have you ever played / do you do anything to exercise now?’ Football, Rugby, Netball, Tennis, F1, American or Australian football, Golf, Swimming, Jogging, Skating and Surfing all come to mind.
Asking a few questions about the local game usually gets people speaking freely. They’ll appreciate your interest.
Socialising and eating out – an easy way to start this one is ‘I was thinking of going out for a meal, any suggestions where I should go?’ Most people have a favourite place and they’ll tell you about it. Just be ready to answer the question – what type of cuisine / food do you like? – meaning, Korean, French, Chinese, Spanish etc. So they can give you a recommendation.
Shopping / clothing – commenting on someone’s clothing and asking what shop it came from can be a good topic. In an office or a work place, most people tend to think about clothing because looking sharp at work is important to them. People love to talk about where to find a good bargain too!
Phones – not as strange as it sounds. These days most people have a phone, and often it will be sitting somewhere obvious, meaning it’s easy to talk about. If you are knowledgeable, topics like Android vs iPhone vs Blackberry, useful apps, the next model, broken screens, battery life and Google Glass are all reasonably engaging topics. These days anyone with a smart phone has an opinion on the good and the bad parts.
With all of these areas you can then relate the answer back to yourself…. I have two brothers…I love Thai food… this shopping app is brilliant. I’ll never wear Google glass.
If they ask you something, ask them back. For example, if they ask ‘Do you like cooking?’ You could say ‘Yes, I like cooking asian food at home. I cook most nights, sometimes my husband cooks too. How about you? Do you like cooking at home?’
The secret with small talk is to match your interests as well. All you are trying to do is learn a bit more about the other person. Over time, this builds the foundation for friendship.
Before you take the real IELTS Test, you should learn things you need be aware of in the IELTS Speaking Test and another useful lesson about what to expect at IELTS Speaking Test.