Episode 3: Small Talk

Transcript of the Episode: 

Main Intro: Welcome to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! I’m your host, Caren Hayden, and I’m here to help you improve your English.




Ep intro: Hi everyone! This week’s episode is all about small talk! What is it? Why is it important? When do Americans engage in small talk? Which topics are common, and which topics are off-limits? And, how can you get better at small talk? Stay tuned!




Small talk is a short casual conversation. Synonyms for small talk are chatting, chit-chat, and light talk.


Americans engage in small talk when they first start talking to each other, or when they are meeting for the first time. We use small talk with strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and even family members to start a conversation.


Even though small talk seems casual and unnecessary, it’s actually quite important in most cultures, including the U.S. It’s a way to establish trust with another person. It’s a way to break the ice, and small talk helps everyone in the conversation feel more comfortable. It builds harmony and good will in society.


The most common small talk topic in America is probably the weather. This is a very safe topic to talk about. Other common topics are jobs, hobbies, family, your surroundings, entertainment, sports, current events, and media. For international visitors in the U.S., a very common topic is your own country or culture. People meeting you as someone from another country, they will almost always ask you about your own country.


Personally, I use small talk several times a day in my daily life. For example, when I talk to my mom every evening, I frequently ask her what she’s cooking for dinner. I often talk to my bank teller or grocery store cashier about the weather. Less frequently, I may strike up a conversation with another person at the grocery store about how good the berries are right now while we’re both picking out blueberries in the produce section. Before my yoga class starts, I regularly talk to the person next to me about how long they’ve been coming to that class.


Topics to avoid during small talk are religion, politics, and any other controversial or very personal topic. For example, money, bodily functions, and sexual subjects should be avoided during small talk. These topics may make your conversation partner uncomfortable, or could start an argument. It’s best to stick with the most common and casual topics of conversation.


Small talk is not only difficult for language learners, but it can also be difficult for people who just lack confidence when talking to strangers. There are a few ways you can improve your small talk. First of all, try to keep up with the news, so you know what people are talking about when they bring up current events. Ask yourself about your culture, and try to think of what questions Americans might have about your country. Look up vocabulary to help you talk about your interests and hobbies. Finally, practice!


So, let’s practice right now some common ways to start a conversation with small talk:

  • You can ask your mail carrier: How about this weather?

  • You could ask your neighbor: Did you hear about that robbery in the neighborhood?

  • You could ask your co-worker: Looking forward to the weekend?

  • You could ask another guest at a social event: Pretty nice place, huh?

  • You could tell another patient in the doctor’s waiting room: I didn't think it would be so busy today.

Main Outro: Well, that’s it for today everyone. Thank you for listening to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can find the transcript of today’s show and more information about today’s episode on the show website: www.englishforeveryonepod.com. [Stay tuned for the slower version of today’s episode.]




(slow version)


Bye bye!

Music is Where’s My Jetpack by Computer Music All-Stars found on www.freemusicarchive.org