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How Do I Continue a Conversation in English?

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This week, we answer a question from a VOA listener who writes:

Question:

I work with some native speakers of English. I want to practice speaking with them so I improve my English. But sometimes, I get nervous, so our conversation ends quickly. How can I talk with these friends for a longer time?

– VOA fan

Answer:

Dear VOA fan,

You are right. It is not always easy to keep a conversation going in English. You might not be sure about what to say. Or maybe you are afraid that your pronunciation is not good.

Listen and follow up

First, remember the importance of listening. Listen to the other person carefully, so that you can ask a follow-up question. For example, let's say the other person tells you, "I just got back from a trip to Canada."

You can follow up with a question using Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How:

  • Where did you go in Canada?
  • What was your favorite place there?
  • How was the food there?

Avoid simple 'yes' or 'no' questions

If you want to keep a conversation going, it's a good idea to ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no.'

If the other person asks you a 'yes' or 'no' question, try to give a longer answer to help keep the conversation going.

For example, a friend might ask, "Hey, have you seen the new Star Wars movie?"

You could just answer, "No, I haven't." Or, you could say more.

You could answer: "No, but I plan to see it soon. How about you?"

Be brave and practice often

Do not worry about your pronunciation. If your pronunciation is a little different, the other person will still understand your message if you try speaking slowly and clearly. When you are traveling in an English-speaking country and have some free time, be brave and speak in English with someone who does not look too busy. You may make a new friend.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Please understand that we cannot answer all of the questions our listeners send us. Write to us at learningenglish@voanews.com.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

If you are interested in speaking with an online partner, please read our Education Tips story, Five Tips for Great Language Exchanges.

Words in This Story

conversation - n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people or the act of talking in an informal way

nervous – adj. having or showing feelings of being worried and afraid about what might happen

pronunciationn. a particular person's way of pronouncing a word or the words of a language

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or write to us at learningenglish@voanews.com.

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