What is a conversation?

Conversation is interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people. As language learners, you will certainly need to develop good conversation skills so you can interact in a natural way with other speaking partners.

In conversations, we use a combination of questions and responses. That is why it is so important to practise forming questions and learn how to use those questions as the foundation for your responses.

Of course, you cannot be exactly sure about what will happen in a conversation – they are nearly always unpredictable. However, you can anticipate general themes and even questions you may be asked.

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That’s why I recommend that you practise asking questions and giving  responses. If you were going to have an interview and saw a list of the questions, I’m sure most of you would prepare and rehearse your answers. In fact, I’m sure many people anticipate conversations in their head before having them. You can do it when you alone and can even do it out loud. I even advise recording yourself so you can give yourself feedback.

So, here is a list of questions for you. The questions are formed using lots of different tenses and structures so you can also use them to identify areas of grammar you need to study. They will also be useful if you have to take a speaking exam or have a job interview.

Here are some suggestions about how to use them:

  • If you have a speaking partner, why not take turns to interview each other?
  • It might be a good idea to note down some answers to the questions before speaking aloud. Research suggests writing things down in note form produces better quality responses.
  • Record yourself answering the questions. Then, listen back and try to identify your errors.
  • Highlight the question words and the auxiliary verbs or main verbs that follow them.
  • Identify which tenses are used in the questions.
  • Identify verb and preposition combinations, such as like about or need for.
  • Make sure you understand any phrasal verbs and use them in your responses.
  • Think about how you could extend and expand your responses.
  • Consider how the questions could be phrased differently.
  • Identify which words are stressed in the questions and then practise asking them.
  • With a partner, play a game in which the first person answers a random question and the second person has to guess which question was answered.
  • Answer the questions as if you were a famous person (this challenges you to be more creative)
  • Ask and answer the questions in the third person as if you were discussing another person.
  • Use the questions as a basis for creating your own questions. For example, what were you like as a child? could be changed to what were you like as a teenager?

Growing up

  1. What’s your full name?
  2. How do you spell it?
  3. Where were you born?
  4. Where did you grow up?
  5. What were you like as a child?
  6. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  7. What’s your earliest memory?
  8. What hobbies did you have as a child?
  9. Who were your heroes / role models when you were a child?
  10. Who was your best friend as a child and what did you like about him/her?

Professional life

  1. What do you do for a living?
  2. What are some of the things you like and dislike about your job?
  3. What qualifications or training did you need for your job?
  4. Tell me about a typical working day.
  5. Do you prefer working alone or in a team?
  6. What are your professional ambitions?
  7. What qualities do people need in order to do your job successfully?
  8. If you could do any job, what would you choose?

Free time

  1. What do you like doing in your free time?
  2. At weekends, do you get up early or do you prefer to stay in bed?
  3. Describe your perfect weekend.
  4. What do you like reading?
  5. What kind of music do you like listening to?
  6. Do you watch much TV and if so, what programmes do you like?
  7. What is your opinion of social media such as Facebook or Twitter?
  8. If you could invite 5 people to your home for a dinner party, who would you choose?

Learning English

  1. How long have you been learning English?
  2. Do you think you have a talent for learning languages?
  3. Why do you think some people pick up languages easier than others?
  4. Do people from your country have a reputation for being good at learning languages? Why? Why not?
  5. Have you ever been to an English-speaking country? How was the experience?
  6. Rank the 4 skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) in order of importance.
  7. Do you think you are primarily a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner?
  8. Do you think you are a global or analytical learner?
  9. What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of successful language learners?
  10. What are the characteristics of effective teachers?
  11. How do you like learning? What teaching methods or activities do you dislike?
  12. If you were the teacher, how would you teach a class with you as the student?

What other questions can you think of?

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