It’s essential to practise your speaking to improve your fluency, but how do you start a conversation in English – especially if you’re talking with native speakers?
There are two main problems that English learners have when they want to take part in conversations. Firstly, native English speakers can talk too fast, which means it’s difficult to understand them.
Secondly, it’s difficult to find the right moment to join the conversation. By the time you remember the right word or phrase to contribute to the conversation, people have moved on to other things.
How to start a conversation in English
There are three things you can do:
1. Get people to wait for you
Use phrases that get people’s attention and which make them wait for you. For example:
“Well I think…” (And then pause.)
These short phrases also give you time to think about how you’re going to finish your sentence!
2. Interrupt politely
Often you can wait for a natural pause in the conversation to jump in with what you want to say. But if there isn’t a space in the conversation, you can say something like:
“Yes, you’re right, and…”
It’s a good idea to interrupt a person by saying that you’re agreeing with them. We generally like people who agree with us, so the interruption doesn’t seem negative or hostile.
3. Rewind the conversation
Because native English conversations move fast, you sometimes need to find a way to go back to a previous topic so that you can make your contribution. This happens particularly if you only remember the right word or expression after the conversation moves on. It might seem strange to start a conversation by going back, but in fact native speakers do this all the time! Say something like:
“Going back to what we were saying about…”
Do you have other problems when you speak English? Check out English Conversation Tips to find out what you can say when you don’t remember a word or you don’t know how to end a conversation.
The video below gives you more tips and phrases to start a conversation in English: