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Learning English: Small Talk

Small talk serves as the vital initial step in forging meaningful connections, a bridge that we instinctively build upon whenever we interact with others. Its remarkable utility lies in its ability to serve as an incredible icebreaker, swiftly dismantling barriers and paving the way for more substantial conversations. Through seemingly trivial discussions, we uncover shared interests or experiences, forming a common ground that fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

The important things to consider are:

- Time and context

- Open-ended questions

I did not write this lesson by myself, this is my personal notes from various youtube videos. Go check out their amazing videos below.


When engaging in conversations about work, there are various avenues to explore. Frequently, conversations commence with a 'now' time frame, such as asking,

"What do you do?"

This can serve as a starting point for further dialogue.

To delve deeper, one can extend the discussion to encompass the past, inquiring about the motivations that led the individual to pursue their current profession. Questions like,

"What do you do for work, and what's one thing you enjoy about it?"

I run an education company, so when I'm not on YouTube, I'm making my English courses, my online English courses, and my favourite part of the job is receiving feedback from my students who've taken the courses.

"How did you get started in your line of work?"

It all started with this YouTube channel here in 2016, and then slowly, it grew into something a little bit bigger

"What project are you currently working on?"

We are currently working on a huge project, which is our C1 level course, our advanced English course. It's going to be amazing. It's going to come out in May. If you're watching this in the future, check the description box. I will leave a link, and if you are interested, I have left the waiting list so you'll be the first to know

"What motivated you to become a ...?" or

"Did you always want to be a ...?" can facilitate a richer understanding of their professional journey.

Reflection on initial experiences can also be insightful, with inquiries like,

"What was your first-ever job? Did you enjoy it?"

providing a glimpse into formative work encounters.

Transitioning to the present, topics may revolve around the routine of a typical workday and the aspects that bring fulfillment to their role. For instance,

"What does a typical workday look like?"

"What do you love about your job?"

can prompt discussions on daily activities and the gratifications derived from them.

"What's one thing you've learnt recently that's helped you in your job?"

I have learnt to listen carefully to criticism but to not take it all to heart.

"What's the best professional advice you've ever received?"

Well, it's not the most impressive, amazing, mind-blowing piece of advice ever, but when my YouTube channel was starting to take off, I was starting to make a little bit of income. I asked my dad if I should do it or if I should continue with my planned career path, and he said, “Give it a go. Do it for two years. If it doesn't work, you'll only be 23. All you've lost is a little bit of time.” It ended up being the best piece of advice I've ever followed

"What do you think sets successful people apart in your field?"

I think they are excited about what they do and what they create.

"What's one challenge you've faced at work, and how did you overcome it?"

One thing I found really difficult is managing a team of people. That's not ever something I thought I was going to be doing, and I've been trying to overcome it. I'm still learning. Recently, I have opened my calendar so that at the beginning of every month, everyone who works for me can check in for a 20-minute chat. We start this next week, so I hope that will help me be more in touch with my employees

"Do you have any career goals you're working towards?"

I would say more of a lifestyle goal. I would like to not have to work all the time whilst my children are young. I am not expecting children at the moment, but I would like to have them in the future

"Have you ever had an interesting work experience or job?"

I worked in a juice bar for a number of years, and I learnt a lot about fruit, and I love fruit, so that was great for me.

For a more imaginative discourse, future prospects can be explored. Careful phrasing is crucial to avoid potential offense. Questions like,

"Is this your dream job, or are you working towards something else?"

allow individuals to share aspirations without imposing assumptions about 'something bigger.' In a similar vein, considering alternate paths through questions such as,

"If money wasn't an issue, what job would you want?" can foster creative contemplation about career trajectories unbound by financial constraints.

"What do you think the future of your industry looks like?"

I think it has a lot more artificial intelligence involved


"How was your day today?"

It's been pretty busy, but I've had a good day. Thanks

"What did you do last weekend?"

Last weekend I visited my family in Bedfordshire, and we celebrated my brother's birthday.

"What hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?"

I really like running, and I've just bought a treadmill, so I'm enjoying using that.

You can pay attention to local news headlines.

"Did you hear about the … the accident on the freeway last night? It sounded awful, I got stuck in traffic for over two hours."

You can also ask a question about something that happened in the person’s life

"Have you got much planned on the weekend?"

"What do you like to do in your spare time?"

If they share something that you also like, that is great because you can keep talking. If not, ask for more information. ‘That’s so interesting. I’ve never met anyone who….’

"Have you read any good books lately?"

"What's the most recent book you've read that you enjoyed?"

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, an Italian author. I read it in English, but my goal is to read it in Italian

"Have you seen any good movies?"

"Have you watched any interesting movies or TV shows recently?"

I've really been enjoying watching The White Lotus. It's quite relaxing because it's set in a holiday destination.

"What type of music do you enjoy listening to?"

I honestly don't listen to a lot of music, but I do really like Taylor Swift. She always makes me smile

"Do you have any pets, and what's unique about them?"

Oh, good question. I have a dog and a cat, and what's unique about them is they have Spanish names because I love Spain: Diego, the dog, and Alfonso, the cat

"What's your favourite thing about the current season?"

Oh, we're coming into spring, and I love seeing all of the bulbs that I've planted in my garden start to peek up and show their petals

If you are a mom or dad, you can talk about your kids.

"So, do you have any kids?"

These are great questions to explore someone’s past.

"So, are you from here?"

"Where did you live before this?"

"Is (this city) quite different to (that city)?"

"Do you prefer living in a city or a rural area, and why?"

I absolutely prefer to live in a rural area because I find nature so relaxing. Although I do miss the conveniences of living in a city.


"Do you have any siblings, and what's your relationship with them like?"

I do have a younger brother called George. He's four and a half years younger than me, and we have a fantastic relationship. I consider him a good friend.

"What's your family like, and what do you enjoy most about spending time with them?"

My family is small. My mum, my dad, my brother, my husband and me. And what I love about spending time with them is that we just do not stop laughing.

"Do you have any nieces or nephews, and what do you enjoy doing with them?"

I have got a niece or nephew that is due to be born in April, so I'm going to be an aunt. I'm so excited. I haven't met them yet. But if they are watching this in the future, I'm so excited to meet you.

"Are you in a relationship or married, and how did you meet your partner? "

Yes, I am married to my husband, Will, who is doing a very good job reading out these questions to me. And we met at Young Farmers Club, which is a very British rural teenager social club which is just as cool as it sounds. But if you get a husband out of it, it's totally worth going to.

"Do you have any children, and what do you enjoy most about being a parent?"

I don't have any children, so I can't really answer that question. But I hope to have them at some point one day.

"What's one challenge you've faced in a past relationship, and how did you overcome it?"

Being unsuitable for each other and leaving.

"What's one piece of relationship advice you'd give to someone in a new relationship?"

Infatuation is very different to long-lasting love, but you can enjoy both stages with each other in different ways.

"Have you ever been on a memorable or interesting date, and what happened?"

Once, I went on a date with a guy, and he asked me what I wanted to drink, and I said, “Please, can I have a gin and tonic?” And the barman said, “normal or slimline?” and the guy looked me up and down and said, “slimline”. And it wasn't a joke. He was weird.

"Do you have a best friend, and what's one thing you love about them?"

I have two best friends, and I love them in different ways. I've got my friend Ellie. I have loads of history with her. We've known each other since we were born, basically. And my friend Felicity is someone I see sporadically, but when we get together, it's like no time has passed at all.

"What's one memorable family holiday or trip you've taken together?"

So, growing up, my grandparents had a little apartment in the south of Portugal. They used to hibernate there in the winter and play golf, and we went there every summer as a family. And I hadn't been back there for seven years, and I went back last year with my husband and my parents, and it was amazing to be in my childhood holiday location and to have my husband. I just, I felt like a child and an adult all at once. It was a crazy, crazy experience


"Have you been following any interesting news stories lately, and what are your thoughts on them?"

One big news story in the UK recently was about a woman that went missing and called Nicola Bulley. And I found that really, really scary and fascinating to watch at the same time

"What's your opinion on the current political climate or social issues?"

Oh, well, that's the big question. Dire

"Have you tried any new technology or gadgets recently, and what's your review of them?"

I have been playing around with ChatGPT, and it has been scary and useful all at the same time.

"What's one recent scientific discovery or breakthrough that caught your attention?"

Definitely the development of artificial intelligence. I feel that we are at a turning point.

"Have you been following any sports news, and what teams or athletes do you support?"

Not really. I mean, the Six Nations is going on, and my husband talks a lot about it, but I can't say that sport really interests me too much.

"What's your opinion on the latest celebrity gossip or news?"

I used to follow a lot of celebrity gossip and news. I just don't find it as interesting anymore. But I do really like seeing beautiful dresses on the red carpet.

"What's your take on the current state of the economy or job market?"

Oh, I'm really worried about the economy at the moment. We have huge inflation. Food is really expensive. Fuel is really expensive. It costs a lot to heat your home. In the job market, I've heard rumours that people are taking a little bit more control and not accepting as low pay, and I'm really for that.

"Have you discovered any interesting books, podcasts, or other media lately, and what did you like about them?"

There are two podcasts that I've been enjoying recently, and they are two British newspapers that are leaning to the left and the right. So I get both sides of the same story, really. One is Stories of Our Times by the Sunday Times. The other is Today in Focus by The Guardian. And it's really interesting to hear them both cover the same story but in slightly different ways.

"What's your opinion on climate change, and what actions do you think we can take to combat it?"

I feel frustrated by climate change because there are these huge corporations making so much of a negative impact that sometimes, as one human, I feel quite insignificant. But I'm really, really making an effort to take more control over what I can do to improve climate change.

"Have you been following any recent cultural trends or movements, and what's your take on them?"

I have been interested in the anti-work or anti-work movement. I like using Reddit, and I've seen some things on that Reddit sub-forum, and I find them really interesting that people are suddenly sticking it to the man.


"Have you travelled anywhere recently, and where did you go?"

Most recently, we visited Thailand, and we went to Phuket and Koh Yao Noi, and it was beautiful.

"What's your favourite place you've ever visited, and why?"

That would have to be Seville. I totally fell in love with the city and its culture, and its people.

"Where would you like to go on your next trip?"

We really would like to go to Vietnam. I am desperate to try pho I think it's called—the bone broth soup with noodles—pho. I just really am desperate to see that country.

"Do you prefer relaxing vacations or adventure trips, and why?"

I like to have a good balance. I do need to get the relaxation out of my system. I need to read a book. I need to lie in the shade. I need to swim. But I go a bit stale if I stay relaxing for too long. I need to do things and see things.

"What's one unique or exotic food you've tried while travelling?"

Most recently, mangosteen. That fruit blew my mind. It was so delicious. I wish I could eat it every day.

"What's the craziest or most memorable thing you've done on vacation?"

I would say climbing to the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town at sunrise. That was absolutely beautiful.

"What's your favourite way to travel (road trip, plane, train, etc.)?"

In style

"Do you prefer travelling alone or with others, and why?"

Always with my husband. Well, my husband was a farmer, and now he works with me. And before, I used to travel alone, and I used to think, “damn it, he would love to see this.” I always used to feel so sad that he couldn't come with me. So now it's such a pleasure to travel together.

"Have you ever had a negative travel experience, and how did you handle it?"

Yes. I once turned up at a supposedly five-star hotel that was nothing like the photos, and I very calmly explained that I was going to move to another hotel and I'd like a refund. And luckily, they did comply.

"What's one cultural experience you've had while travelling that you'll never forget?"

La Feria de Abril en Seville—the Feria in Seville. It's just this incredible party with striped marquees everywhere. Everyone wears flamenco dresses. I can't wait to go back.

"So, are you planning on getting away for the holidays?"

"Are you taking time off over Christmas"

You can also share your experience first.

"I’ve just got back from… Have you ever been?"

You can also bring up their experience first

"You went to Peru last year, didn’t you? Do you have any recommendations?"

"What places are on your bucket list?"


"What's one hobby or interest you're passionate about?

Exercise. It just makes me feel so good.

"What's the most recent hobby or interest you've taken up?"

I would say learning Italian with my tutor, Alice, who is amazing. I found her on LanguaTalk, which is a platform that I'm a part of. You can find your own tutor for the language you're learning.

"Do you have any hidden talents that people might not know about?"

I can play the violin, and I'm also really flexible.

"What's one thing you've learned recently that's related to your hobby or interest?"

I've learnt to speak Italian a little bit.

"Have you ever taken a class or workshop related to your hobby or interest?"

Oh, well, a workshop I took recently was a jewellery-making workshop where I learnt to make a silver bangle, and that was great fun.

"What's the most adventurous or daring thing you've done related to your hobby or interest?"

Well, to do with language learning, I think going to Spain at the age of 16, 17 and spending a week there, immersing myself in the language, was quite daring. I spent ages saving up for the language course myself, and it was fantastic and the start of my language teaching career, basically.

"What's one thing you'd like to learn or accomplish related to your hobby or interest?"

Well, if we're going to talk about language learning, I always like to learn how to make people laugh in the language I'm learning. That gives me a lot of satisfaction.

"Do you prefer indoor or outdoor activities, and why?"

Well, it's hard to say. If the weather is good, outdoor 100%. But I'm English. I live in England, so I've just bought a treadmill to run indoors.

"What's one activity or interest you'd like to try in the future?"

Oh, I don't know why, but I really want to try archery.

"What's the most interesting thing you've ever learnt unrelated to work or school?"

How to run a business. It is such an amazing experience, and I learnt absolutely nothing about it at school.


"What's your favourite type of food, and why?"

Fruit, because it's so refreshing. It tastes amazing, and it makes me feel good.

"Do you enjoy cooking, and what's your favourite dish to prepare?"

I love cooking, and my go-to dish is actually normally a risotto. I can whip up a good risotto with very few ingredients in my fridge.

"What's one unique or exotic food you've tried and enjoyed?"

Well, in Thailand, we actually went on a cookery course, and we learnt to make Pad Thai and mango sticky rice and green Thai curry, and that was amazing.

"Do you have any dietary restrictions, and how do you manage them?"

I don't. I'm very, very lucky to have no dietary restrictions, so I don't need to manage them.

"What's your favourite restaurant or café, and what do you like about it?"

I love a good local pub. We've got some great ones around us. For me, the best part is on a sunny day, an unexpectedly sunny day in England, sitting outside in a pub garden.

"What's one dish or cuisine you've been wanting to try, but haven't yet?"

Vietnamese food. I need to try pho.

"What's your favourite type of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage?"

I really like wine and gin for alcohol. Non-alcoholic, I love fresh fruit juice. Fresh fruit and vegetable juice.

"Do you prefer sweet or savory foods, and why?"

Definitely savoury. Sometimes sweet foods can be overpowering, and also, because we eat them at the end of the meal, I often don't have room. I'm not very good at managing my appetite.

"What's one food or drink you've tried that you didn't like?"

For me, it's anything that is really, really spicy. I can handle spice, but not obnoxious levels of spice. Not the level that hurts your tongue.

"Have you ever tried cooking a new dish, and how did it turn out"

I tried cooking pierogi I think they're called. Potato dumplings that you often find in Ukrainian and Polish cuisines. And they went okay. I found them delicious, but when I showed my Polish friend, she said I'd done the wrong.

"Do you know any good restaurant around here?"

"I’m cooking lasagna for dinner tonight. What about you?"

"Have you tried that new Thai restaurant on Chruch street?"

"Do you like thai food?"

"What's your favourite type of cuisine to eat and why?"

Oh, that's hard. I love so many different types of cuisine. I love Lebanese food. Anything that involves fresh fruits and vegetables.


It can be used as a simple passing comment

"It’s a beautiful day isn’t it?"

"Can you believe all the rain we’ve been having lately?"

You can also use the weather as the way to spark of conversation by introducing another conversation

"It’s pouring out there. It’s a shame I rode my bike today. How did you get to work"


"Where did you grow up, and what was it like?"

I grew up in a tiny village in Bedfordshire, and it was a very happy childhood, very rural in the countryside, lots of playing in the garden.

"What's one childhood memory that stands out to you, and why?"

I remember waking up; it must have been my seventh birthday, I think, and my parents had put a trampoline in the garden, and I kid you not, I spent every waking hour on that trampoline. I absolutely loved it.

"What was your relationship like with your sibling when you were both growing up?"

Well, it was funny because I was five years older than George. That's a big gap when one is 2 and one is 6 or when one is 10 and one is 14. So we weren't so close as children. It's only now we're adults that we are really close.

"What's the best thing that's ever happened to you, and how did it make you feel?"

Our wedding day. I just felt high on life. I was so unbelievably happy. I got to marry the man of my dreams and be surrounded by everyone I loved. And it was just after COVID, so it was the first time I'd seen so many people in over two years.

"What's one challenge or obstacle you've faced in your life, and how did you overcome it? "

I was really ill as a teenager from the age of 14 to 16. I had glandular fever and then a weird post-viral chronic fatigue thing, and it wiped me out, and it was a rubbish time, and I was very depressed. It's such a blur that I don't even know how I overcame it. I just know that I had a lot of support from my family.

". Do you have any personal goals or aspirations that you're working towards?"

Oh, a big goal is to have a happy family with a couple of children

"What's one thing you're proud of or accomplished recently, outside of work or school? "

I've made some pretty big charity donations this year that I'm personally very proud of, I think.

"Who's one person that's influenced or inspired you, and how have they impacted your life?"

My dad. My dad, because he's so supportive, so kind, so encouraging. And that's how I hope to be

"What's one thing you've done for someone else recently, and how did it make you feel?"

I helped someone very close with me achieve something they've wanted to do for a long time, and it made me feel really good. And that's all I can say!

"What's one thing you've learned in life that's helped you grow or become a better person? "

Not everyone is going to like you, and that is okay.


"What's one technology or gadget you can't live without, and why?"

Oh, it has to be my phone. So much of what I do is done on my phone

"Have you tried any new apps, software, or devices recently, and what's your review of them?"

I've started wearing an Apple Watch, and I found it really good. Although the battery life is terrible.

"Do you prefer Apple or Android products, and why?"

I prefer Apple products. I think they are really user-friendly, and unfortunately, I love the way they all connect with each other.

"Have you ever built or customised a computer or device, and how did it turn out?"

No, I've never done that. I would be interested in learning, though.

"What's one recent technological advancement or development that you find interesting?" AI. Definitely artificial intelligence. I feel like we're on the cusp of something amazing. This is the worst it's ever going to be. It's only going to get better. And I feel you have to keep up or get left behind.

"Have you tried virtual reality or augmented reality, and what was your experience like?

I have, very briefly at an event, and I thought it was amazing. I'd love to explore it more.

"What's one useful app or tool you use regularly, and how does it help you?"

I use an app to track my menstrual cycle, and it helps me understand why I'm feeling rubbish some days.

"Do you think technology has more positive or negative effects on our lives, and why?"

I'd say in the grand scheme of things, positive. There are lots of negative parts, but definitely from medical advancements: positive.

"What's one technological issue or challenge that you wish could be solved?"

My internet connection. Please! I can't believe it's 2023, and in rural parts of the UK, you still can't get solid reliable internet.

"Do you have any tips or recommendations for staying safe and secure online?"

Don't trust anyone! There are so many scammers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


"What's your typical daily routine, and how do you make the most of your time?"

We normally wake up at around 6:30. I nearly always have porridge for breakfast, lunch between midday and 1:00, and dinner between 6:00 and 8:00. That's a bit random. And I make the most of my time by trying to get as much done in the morning as possible.

"Do you prefer to stay in or go out, and what do you enjoy doing during your free time?"

I don't know if it's a hobby, it's an activity, but taking a bath, and especially a bath with a view. I have a bath near a window, and sometimes there are sheep in the field, and it's just lovely.

"What's one activity or hobby you find most relaxing or stressrelieving?"

I don't know if it's a hobby, it's an activity, but taking a bath, and especially a bath with a view. I have a bath near a window, and sometimes there are sheep in the field, and it's just lovely.

"Do you have any daily rituals or habits that you swear by?"

I have a coffee in bed every morning, and I love that. I love that little 20- minute period of waking up having a coffee. I know lots of people say you shouldn't have it first thing in the morning, but it works for me, and it makes me feel good.

"What do you typically have for lunch?"

I normally have soup in the winter or a salad in the summer.

"What's one way you like to stay active or healthy, and how has it benefitted you?"

Well, we love walking our dog, so we walk him for at least an hour every day. I also have a stationary bike and a treadmill, which is great for winter because I don't have to go outside when it's cold.

"Do you have any guilty pleasures, and what do you enjoy about them?"

I love a glass of wine. I love Lindor Truffle every now and again.

"What's one way you like to spend a lazy day or relax after a long week?"

I love collapsing on the sofa with my husband, my dog and my cat and watching a predictable movie.

"What's one activity or practice you do to de-stress or unwind?"

I like to listen to audiobooks, so I might put one on whilst I'm in the bath.

"What's one thing that brings you joy or fulfilment in life, and why?"

There are so many things! Teaching is one of them. My husband is another. My family.


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