Topics and questions for English language exchange

One of the most common problems learners of English have during language exchanges is not knowing what to talk about, especially for the first meeting. Both you and your partner are probably feeling extra nervous during that first conversation, and it can be hard to think of things to talk about. That is why it is good to prepare a list of general topics to talk about for your first few conversations. If the conversation flows naturally and you don’t need them, that’s great! But you will feel more confident if you know you have some conversation topics to fall back on.

General advice for choosing language exchange topics

Unless you know someone well, you should talk about safe topics, topics that aren’t likely to be too emotional, sensitive, or raise strong feelings. Topics to avoid include: politics, wars, health-care policies, religion, personal finances, people’s appearance, gun control, abortion laws, corruption, democracy (or lack of it), crime, international relations between specific countries or regions, questions about gender identity, terrorism, racial issues, etc. None of these topics are advisable to talk about with people you don’t know.

Tips for keeping a conversation going

Ask follow-up questions.
If you have something to add to the conversation, say it! Don’t just ask questions. It’s natural in conversations for people to take turns asking and answering questions.
Feel free to change the topic if you get stuck. Normal conversations change topics all the time.

List of English language exchange topics

Talking about the weather
How’s the weather there today?
What’s the weather like today?
It’s really hot/cold/rainy/cloudy/snowy/stormy/windy/smoggy here today. What’s the weather like where you are?

Follow-up weather questions
Do you like rain/snow/hot weather/cold weather/windy days? Continue reading…

Speaking English fluently: Breaking the intermediate plateau

Are you stuck at the intermediate level, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and not sure how to make progress? Are you over-complicating things, hopping from one English learning resource to the next and getting nowhere? Are you tired of not feeling fluent?

Feelings like these at the intermediate stage are very common. They lead to frustration, and learners often end up over-complicating things and getting even more frustrated. At worst, they give up.

language learning mastery curve

Getting stuck in your language learning is normal. But it still doesn’t feel good.

Improving your English fluency past the intermediate level doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be frustrating and overwhelming. You can do it on your own, even without a class or a teacher.

Try this simple 6-step system for one week. Look at it as a 7-day experiment. You are going to test something new and see how it works.

If you commit to the process and put in consistent effort for 7 days, you will be amazed at how much your fluency improves.

But even better than that, you will have learned a simple and effective system you can use to keep improving your English for as long as you want.

This is “teach a man to fish” turbocharged.

Your 7-day English fluency goal

Your goal is simple:

To be able to speak fluently* about a specific topic for at least 90 seconds.

For the next 7 days, you will work exclusively toward mastering this specific task.

S.T.A.R.T.R — a 6-step English fluency system

I’ve broken the fluency-building process down into 6 steps. It’s even got an easy-to-remember acronym: S.T.A.R.T.R. It’s pronounced “STARTER. The letters stand for Select, Test, Analyze, Research, Train, Repeat.

How to use the S.T.A.R.T.R English fluency system

Choose a topic that excites you

Your topic should make your feel like this.

1. SELECT an interesting topic
Choose a topic that feels interesting and exciting. It should be something that you can look forward to working on for the coming week. It makes no sense to choose something you would never need to talk about, or something that bores you. Can you feel excited about it for a week of study? If yes, then it’s a good topic.

2. TEST your current fluency
What is your starting point? It’s time to find out. Do a self-test before you study or prepare anything. Continue reading…

Finite verb forms in English

Why should you care about finite verb forms?

Finite verb forms in English contain a lot of information. They mark number, person, tense, and mood, all of which contribute to meaning.

Finite verbs are also the the part of the verb phrase that has to agree with the subject (in person and number). In the example below, the subjects are green and the finite verbs are in bold.

If my neighbor’s stupid kids don’t turn down that awful music soon,   I   am going to lose my mind.

Subject-verb agreement is an important part of English grammar. When you make mistakes with subject-verb agreement, it makes it harder for people to understand what you mean. Unless the context is very clear, listeners don’t know if the mistake is in the verb form or in the subject. For example, where is the error in the sentence below?

The package you ordered have arrived. X

We don’t know for sure which is correct:
The package you ordered has arrived (one package).
The packages you ordered have arrived (more than one package).

Even if the meaning is clear from the context, subject-verb agreement errors tend to draw more than their fair share of attention, distracting and even annoying the listener. So it’s worth making the effort to get them right!

Finite verb forms

All English verbs have finite forms for present and past; for example, go vs.went, and stop vs. stopped. (NOTE: A few irregular verbs (put, set, cost, etc.) have present and past forms that are the same.)

All non-modal English verbs (except be) also change form for the third person singular in the present tense (he/she/it goes).

All of this might seem confusing, but the pattern is really pretty straightforward. Look at Table 1 below, and you’ll see it’s a lot simpler in table form.

  • I walk
  • you walk
  • he/she/it walks
  • I walked
  • you walked
  • he/she/it walked
  • we walk
  • you walk
  • they walk
  • we walked
  • you walked
  • they walked

Finite forms of be

The verb be is the naughty problem child of the finite verb family, because it doesn’t follow the regular pattern of most other verbs. (See Table 2 below.)

Table 2. BE
  • I am
  • you are
  • he/she/it is
  • I was
  • you were
  • he/she/it was
  • we are
  • you are
  • they are
  • we were
  • you were
  • they were

The two most frequent verbs in English – be and have

Be and have are extremely frequent in English — in fact, they are the two MOST FREQUENTLY OCCURRING verbs. It’s not just because being and having are generally common things to talk about. The finite forms of be and have used in many English tenses, for example: Continue reading…