5 Tips to Improve Everyday English Conversation Skills – BELS Malta

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Make effective progress in your everyday English conversation skills

Having an everyday conversation in English can be more challenging than learning grammar. But with a few tips and by following some techniques, you can easily make progress. Read our guide for useful tips written by our teachers.

1. Memorise plenty of phrasal verbs

Have you noticed how adding one tiny word (a preposition or particle e.g. to/out/up) to a verb can entirely change its meaning? Phrasal verbs change the meaning of a verb, some have a literal meaning and others create a whole new phrases and meaning!

It’s worth learning phrasal verbs and looking out for them when you are having an English conversation to familiarise yourself. Phrasal verbs might look confusing at first, but when you learn the basics, they’re logical. They’re very common in spoken English, so get a list and start learning them.

For example, ‘up’, and the verb ‘stand’. Stand means to already be in a position on your feet, but when we add the word ‘up’, it suddenly means to move out of your chair and stand. Up can be directional (climb up e.g. ladder), completion (use up all the milk – no milk left), fulfillment (full up- had enough to eat/drink), increase (turn up e.g. the volume). Speaking is by far the best way to learn phrasal verbs naturally in English Conversation.

2. Spice up your speak with idioms and phrases

English conversations have some truly bizarre phrases. You might be confused as to why your friend arrives on your doorstep with an umbrella and announces “it’s raining cats and dogs outside!”. Before you check for any animals falling from the sky, first check that it’s not simply an idiom. Idioms are very common in English conversation and a quick Google search will inform you of the most common ones used.

3. Exaggerate!

A surprising number of learners neglect this in their English conversation and it sometimes does stop them sounding like native speakers. Simply modifiers (e.g. extremely, very, so, really) for adjectives and adverbs with a little bit of emphasis can change a sentence and create more engaging English Conversation. You’ve heard native English conversation, with intonation that creates interest and better interaction. We tend to exaggerate facts (e.g somebody who is pretty will often be described as really pretty) for better English conversation.

4. Somethings are just there for politeness

This often applies mainly to English conversation in Britain, the country stereotyped for unwavering politeness. Saying sorry for any appearance of misunderstanding, and please and thank you for everything whilst queuing will have you looking and speaking like a British person in no time.

Sometimes simple statements are made confusing just for take sake of politeness. This includes the use of indirection questions, using language of speculation and many other grammatical structures to complicate matters.

5. Use common responses

One of the golden rules of small talk is to always respond to statements to show that you are listening, and actively engaged in the conversation. One way to achieve this is by using a list of common responses.

Here’s a list of common responses to get you started:

that’s fantastic!, I’m so pleased for you, I’m glad to hear that, lucky you!, I’m glad to hear that, that’s so true!, have a good time, good luck, Congratulations, Oh no!, I’m always here for you, oh dear!, you’ll be fine, cheer up, I’m sorry to hear that, just do your best, no way!, are you serious? I know right!, I can’t believe it.

6. Use question tags

Another way to engage listeners is to use question tags. Question tags are a common occurrence in English conversation and they have a two main purposes. The first is to verify that information is correct, so to clarify information. For example, ‘You said you are coming back at 8, didn’t you?’. The second is to engage the listener into what you’re saying, for example ‘This restaurant is brilliant, isn’t it?’

Learn more about when and how to use question tags.

7. Practice, practice and practice!

To learn, you need to practice. You can start off by speaking to yourself in the mirror, then move on to recording yourself, and finally, practice with a human! You can find others who are also learning like you, make friends with expats, join a language course, or find a private teacher.

Do you feel more confident to have everyday English conversations? Get in touch if you wish to learn more about English conversation classes.