Posts Tagged ‘France’

Your ability to make ‘small talk’ is highly valued. In fact, many English students are more interested in making effective small talk than knowing correct grammar structures. Small talk gets friendships started and ‘breaks the ice’ before important business meetings and other events.

What is small talk? Small talk is pleasant conversation about common interests.

Why is small talk difficult for some English learners? First of all, making small talk is not difficult only for English learners, but also for many native speakers. However, small talk can be especially difficult for some learners because making small talk means talking about almost anything – and that means having a large vocabulary that can cover many topics. Most English learners have excellent vocabulary in specific areas, but may have difficulties discussing topics they are unfamiliar with because of a lack of appropriate vocabulary.

This lack of vocabulary leads to some students ‘freezing’. They slow down or stop speaking completely because of a lack of self-confidence.

6 Ways to Improve Small Talk Skills

Making effective small talk takes lots of practice, with these tips you should improve your overall conversational skills.

  1. Do some research — Spend time on the Internet, reading magazines, or watching TV specials about the type of people you are going to meet. For example: If you are taking a class with students from other countries, take time after the first few days of class to do some research about their country. They will appreciate your efforts and your conversations will be much more interesting.
  1. Stay away from religion/strong political beliefs — While you may believe in something very strongly, beginning a conversation and/or making small talk about your own personal convictions may abruptly end a conversation. Keep it neutral. Don’t try to convince the other person that you have the ‘correct’ information about a higher being, political system or other belief system and their ideas are not correct. Respect others’ points of view.
  1. Use the Internet to gain specific vocabulary — This is related to doing research about other people. If you have an important meeting, or are meeting someone who shares a common interest take advantage of the Internet to learn specific vocabulary. Almost all businesses and interest groups have information on the Internet explaining jargon related to their business or activity.
  1. Ask yourself about your culture — Take time to make a list of common interests that are discussed when making small talk in your own culture. You can do this in your own language, but check to make sure that you have the English vocabulary to make small talk about those subjects.
  1. Find common interests — Once you have a subject that interests both of you, stick with it! You can do this in a number of ways: talking about travel, school or friends you have in common. It is a good idea to even discuss differences between your culture and the new culture (just be careful to not make judgments, i.e., “The people in our country are nicer than the people are here in France“).
  1. Listen — This is very important. Don’t get so worried about being able to communicate that you don’t listen to what the speaker is saying. Listening carefully will help you understand and encourage those speaking to you to have patience with you while you are speaking. You might be nervous, but letting others state their opinions will improve the quality of the discussion – and give you time to think of an answer! But don’t spend too much time thinking of an answer that you stop paying attention to the speaker.

Common small talk subjects:

  • Sports – current matches or games, favorite teams, etc.
  • Hobbies – sewing, knitting, painting, reading
  • Weather – boring, but this usually gets the conversation going
  • Family – general questions, not questions about private matters
  • Media – movies, books, magazines, blogs etc.
  • Holidays – where, when, etc. but NOT how much!
  • Home town – where do you come from, how is it different/similar to this town
  • Job –  general questions not too specific
  • Latest fashion and trends
  • Celebrities – any gossip you may have read !

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Countries, Nationalities and Languages in English

This chart shows the CountryLanguage and Nationality of some countries from around the world.

DID YOU KNOW? Demonym is another name for Nationality – demos (Greek for populace) and onym (suffix for ‘name’)

  • Language and nationality names are often, but not always similar. For example: French – the language, and French the nationality are the same in the case of France.. However, English – the language, and American – the nationality are not the same in the case of The United States.
  • All countries, languages and nationalities are always capitalized in English. This is because country, language and nationality names are proper names of countries, languages and nationalities.

        All country names are unique, otherwise there would be confusion about where you were.

 Nationality Pronunciation  Country  Language  Nationality
One syllable
France French French
Greece Greek Greek
ends in ‘-ish’
Britain English British
Denmark Danish Danish
Finland Finnish Finnish
Poland Polish Polish
Spain Spanish Spanish
Sweden Swedish Swedish
Turkey Turkish Turkish
ends in ‘-an’
Germany German German
Mexico Spanish Mexican
The United States English American
ends in ‘-ian’ or ‘-ean’
Australia English Australian
Brazil Portuguese Brazilian
Egypt Arabic Egyptian
Jordan Arabic Jordanian
Hungary Hungarian Hungarian
Korea Korean Korean
Russia Russian Russian
ends in ‘-ese’
China Chinese Chinese
Japan Japanese Japanese
Sudan Arabic Sudanese

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