It is a situation most CISL students have experienced while living in San Diego or San Francisco: you go out to a great restaurant, beach, park, or bar. You see someone who looks interesting/attractive. You want to strike up a conversation with this person, but you stop. You remember that one tiny thing stands between you and a new friend: English is not your native language.
Not to worry: we have some tips (brought to you by CISL teachers) on ways to improve your English speaking skills. Following these tips (along with practice, practice, practice!) will significantly improve your English conversation skills.
Tips for improving your English conversation skills
1. Imagine the conversation in your head.
Imagining a conversation in your head (a conversation which is at a much slower pace than a normal conversation) allows you to analyze the dialogue and any grammar or vocabulary questions you may have. Suddenly, you realize that you don’t know how to properly form a question, pronounce certain words, etc. Play these conversations in your head and make sure to ask your CISL teacher if you have any grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation questions. You will be ready for the real conversation when it occurs!
2. Pay close attention to the pronunciation of word endings
It is common for English learners to drop the “s” on plural nouns or forget the “ed” endings of regular past tense verbs. These mistakes can be avoided if you take the time to speak slowly and clearly, using the English grammar that you already know.
3. Don’t use the rhythm of your own language
Every language has a rhythm, but there is a good chance that the rhythm of your native language is not the same as the rhythm of English. Pay close attention to the rhythm of English and try your best to mimic it.
4. Research common mistakes made by speakers of your native language
Depending on your native language, different aspects of the English language will be more or less difficult to master. For example, pronouncing the “w” sound is always difficult for native Swiss-German speakers, and the “h” sound is tricky for those who speak French. Simple Google searchers about “common English mistakes for X learners” will help you identify the mistakes that people who speak your native language make. Then, try your hardest not to make them!
5. Over-pronounce words until you pronounce them correctly
Speak slowly. Watch the mouths of native speakers when they talk, and mimic their mouth movements. It may seem silly, but try and imitate native speakers and over-enunciate your words as you speak. It will seem strange to you, but the result will be English words that are pronounced well.
Above all, practice, practice, practice!
So getting back to the beginning of this post, and that awkward situation where you can’t seem to think of the right thing to spark up a conversation with someone. Our last piece of advice? Avoid using cheesy pick up lines. “Cheesy” is a slang word that is used to describe something that is incredibly uncool. “Pick up lines” are conversation starters, typically when the person who begins the conversation has a romantic interest in the other person. Our students are charming, and Americans love accents, but even CISL students will not have much luck with the following cheesy one-liners. But they are certainly funny!
- Are you an interior decorator? ‘Cause when I saw you, the room became beautiful.
- Do you want to come live in my heart rent free?
- Are you religious? ‘Cause you’re the answer to all my prayers.
- I’m not drunk, I’m just intoxicated by you.
- I was so enchanted by your beauty that I ran into that wall over there. So I am going to need your name and number for insurance purposes.
- If beauty were time, you’d be eternity.
- If I were a stop light, I’d turn red everytime you passed by, just so I could stare at you a bit longer.
- You know I’d like to invite you over, but I’m afraid you’re so hot that you’ll skyrocket my air-conditioning bill.
- My buddies bet me that I wouldn’t be able to start a conversation with the most beautiful girl in the bar. Wanna buy some drinks with their money?
- Babe, your beauty makes the morning sun look like the dull glimmer of the moon.
- You’d better direct that beauty somewhere else, you’ll set the carpet on fire.
- If I received a nickel for every time I saw someone as beautiful as you, I’d have five cents.
- For a moment I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Now I see that I am very much alive, and heaven has been brought to me.
- Sorry, but you owe me a drink. [Why?] Because when I looked at you, I dropped mine.
Now that you have seen the example of what NOT to do, tell us: what English pick up lines actually work? Leave us a message on Facebook and we will post the best response!