6 easy ways to start a conversation in English (and keep it going)

Nothing will improve your English like talking, but where to start? Having a conversation in your own language can feel scary, so it is understandable that starting a conversation in a new one can feel even scarier. That’s why we put together this article with 6 tips on how to naturally start a conversation in English – and keep it going.

You have had thousands of great conversations in your life already, just not in English. We know that you know how to talk with people, how to have a conversation and be polite. Some of the steps we will take you through might seem obvious, but when it comes to learning a language, you have to go back to basics. Let us get started!

Start with a friendly ‘Hello!’

With a friendly attitude, conversations will come naturally. Most chats start with a ‘hello’ so let us give you a couple of examples of friendly greetings.

  • ‘Hello, it’s nice to meet you!’

  • ‘Hi, how are you?’

  • ‘Hey, what’s up?’ (An informal way of asking how someone is)

  • ‘Good morning/afternoon/evening’

If you would like to introduce yourself, you can start by saying your name:

‘Hello, my name is Adriana!’

And then ask the person what their name is.

‘What’s your name?’

Once you are past the introductory stage, move on to asking questions.

Ask questions – people love to talk about themselves

The simplest way to keep a conversation going is to ask questions. Just like in your native tongue, which question is appropriate, depends on the person you are speaking with. Start with simple questions about things and topics that you are already familiar with.

  • How was your day?

  • Did you have a nice weekend?

  • Have you watched ‘Dallas Buyer’s Club’? (Choose a movie you know well)

  • How did you learn English?

  • I like your shoes, where did you buy them?

Focus on making yourself understood

Having conversations is about putting what you have learned into practice, not being perfect. Making mistakes is the only way to learn! If you cannot find the word you are looking for, try to describe it using words you remember. If you do not understand what the other person has said – tell them and ask them to describe it in a different way. Do not be afraid to admit you are not following and keep a positive mindset. The worst thing that can happen is that you have a laugh and learn something new!

Be honest when you do not understand

So, you have started a conversation, but you cannot understand the words they are using. Do not be worried, we have all been there. Here are a couple of phrases you can use:

  • ‘I am sorry, I do not know what the word “meandering” means, could you explain it to me?

  • ‘Could you please speak a bit slower? I am still learning English!’

  • ‘Apologies, I did not understand what you said, could you use different words?’

Honesty is the best policy; people are patient and will most likely just be impressed that you are learning a new language.

Learn interesting facts in English

Not sure what to talk about? Learn facts that interest you in English and let them be good conversation starters.

  • Did you know Australia is wider than the moon? The moon sits at 3400km in diameter, while Australia’s diameter from east to west is almost 4000km.

  • It is illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland. It is considered animal abuse because they are social beings and get lonely.

  • Blue whale tongues can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts can also weigh almost a tonne and only need to beat once every ten seconds.

This will help you learn new vocabulary and information. Everyone loves a fact – that is a fact.

Tell people you are learning English

If you do not live in an English-speaking country, it can be hard to find people to practice with. Start telling people you meet that you are learning English. At work, at the bar, at the hairdresser – anywhere you can have a conversation! Who knows, you might meet someone who would like to practice with you and make a new friend along the way.

Another good way to practice conversations in English is to join an online English school. EF English Live combines one-on-one lessons with certified teachers, interactive group lessons with other learners from around the world, and self-study material available 24/7 – on any device. Getting you speaking from day one with real-life scenarios and roleplaying. In a safe, encouraging, and flexible environment.

Send voice notes in English

Technically, a voice note is not a conversation, but they are a great way to build confidence to have conversations. They allow you to speak English and work on your skills without the pressure of having someone right in front of you. Next time you go to write a message in your native tongue, try recording it as a voice note (as long as the recipient understands English, of course). This will also help with your pronunciation as you can listen back to what you have said.

Remember, conversations are about communication, not perfection. It will take time to feel confident in conversations. But the more mistakes you make, the more you learn. Whether you have enrolled in an online English school, just beginning your English journey, or looking to brush up on your conversational skills – a smile and a friendly hello will always make a good impression. Good luck and have fun!