Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Conversation Starters: What would you say or ask?

Many English textbooks start by teaching students basic expressions and questions like, "Hello. What's your name?" The problem with that question and approach it is often completely unnatural to ask someone their name in many situations. For example, imagine you are in an airport lobby waiting to catch your flight. If someone sitting next to you asked you your name, what would you think and how would you respond? Personally, I'd be very surprised and probably ask the person why they wanted to know.

So, if you found yourself in this situation, what kinds of questions or statements could you make to start a NATURAL conversation? Please share your ideas.



  1. I imagine if someone ask me that question out of blue, I will not answer her/his question.This action might be rude but I feel the situation is eskeptical.If I do not answer, that person do not continue the conversation.

  2. To talk in natural way, it is better to use "small talks",in other words, to speak about the weather,news, traffic, economy situation, transportation system and etc.This creats a really safe and friendly environment for communication with people.

  3. It is ridiculous to ask a stranger’s name at the time you just want to make easy talk. People usually choose the weather as the topic in Canada. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is beautiful”. When I bump into some strangers such like in a park trail, one “Hello” is very good to show my polite and friendly. If I want make further talking I would start to talk the weather or the park. “It’s nice here, isn’t it? “ “Yes, it is. A beautiful and quiet place.” They would answer.
    Certainly, I would choose the direct topic when I have to make a talk with a stranger. If I need a help, I would directly ask” Could you help me? “. “Do you need a help?” when I find someone need a help.
    Two weeks ago, I arrived the brand new Terminal 3 of Beijing International Airport after I had visited my parents and also attended Beijing Glass Exhibition in China. When I sit in the airport lounge to wait for the flight to Toronto, I saw a big guy who I though I had seen him in the Beijing Glass Exhibition. I wanted to talk to him to make sure if he is the guy I saw. So I went to him and asked “Do you work for AGM”. “No.” he answered, “I work for Xxx Company”. I said “I am sorry; I’ve got the wrong person. I though I had seen you on the Beijing Glass Exhibition, a guy was really looked like you”. He said “I know there are not too many people have the big figure like me.” Even though he was not the person I was looking for but we had started a conversation. He told me he had just attended another exhibition in Shanghai and he is living in Toronto too. We made a wide conversation such like China’s big changes in recent years, the culture differences between China and western counties, etc. We kept talking until we have to leave for our flight. We never asked each other name because we don’t need to.
    J.S Canada

  4. I felt j.s's comment was so nice and natural conversation.
    I've been wondering why you learn less important expressions in English class,too.
    I think the chance starts very trivial situations,so if we were on the flight,we can ask "business"or "sightseeing" etc. I would like to know why Americans are so friendly to talk to people. It seems to enjoy chatting whoever are they.

  5. It depends also on the situation--whether you want to introduce yourself to a particular person (because they're cute or look interesting) or you just want to pass the time (e.g. sitting next to someone for a long flight).

    I love to eat, so one of my conversation-starters is "Do you know where I could find a good restaurant that serves XXX (a local specialty, for example)?"

    People are often enthusiastic about their favorite places, so are willing to share their opinions. And you learn about restaurants that don't appear in guidebooks!

  6. I think to start a nature conversation the starter should has the skill of guessing the specific background of person who want to converse with and starting by asking him that Are you ……? The person His/her answer will be in two forms in normal way one is yes ,how do you know that or no I m not… . .do I look like….! And after then they can have the nature conversation. But that also depends on age of the person I mean for example if we suggest that the starter is a man and he intent to have the conversation with pretty young girl in particular it would be there many obstacles and different view which leads to say that purpose plays the big role in this .


Thanks for posting a comment. I appreciate your interesting in sharing your ideas.



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