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Conversational Routines

Level: Intermediate

Skill: Conversing (Both listening and speaking)

Purpose: To respond appropriately to common greetings or social small-talk and to answer commonly-asked questions. This technique builds on the Useful Phrases  technique.

Note: A lot of language interaction involves giving a typical response to a question or statement. For example, when someone says, “Hi, how are you today?” in English normally  you would just say something like “Fine, thanks, and you?” even if you have a cold or  are feeling grumpy. This is a common conversational “routine” because that is what people routinely say.

Likewise if someone says “Thank you” you would probably respond something like “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure” depending on the situation and where you are from. But, to an English speaker it would feel strange not to say anything at all. This isn’t true of all languages. There might not be an expected response when you thank someone, but you need to find out what is expected and respond appropriately.

What to Do: 

Step 1: Decide on the phrase you want to expand. Suppose you have learned how to thank people. Decide to find out how to respond when someone thanks you. Or suppose you have learned how to greet someone in the morning. Decide to find out what to say when people greet you.

Step 2: Ask your LH if what they would typically say if you thanked him or her. Ask if that is fairly typical of what people would say.

Step 3: Record the new phrase, so you can mimic it, but also record the LH saying both the Greeting and Response, or the Thanking Phrase and Response, for example.

Here are some possibilities for conversational routines. You will have to find out what is used in the language you are learning.

  • Greeting exchange and response
  • Leave-taking exchange and response
  • Thanking someone and response

At Intermediate stage, you would want to find out if there is a follow-up to the greeting.  For example: “Did you have a nice weekend?” “Not bad. How about you? You would also want to find out what are appropriate topics for “small-talk” or casual conversation with people you don’t know very well.

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