Holding a conversation in English is much more than putting words together and not making grammar mistakes: We have to act both as a speaker and a listener, we have to adapt our behaviour to the changes in the conversation, we have to respect turn-taking and be able to cooperate with our interlocutor to keep the conversation going, we have to respect specific social conventions, we have to use suitable structures for the context. Sounds daunting,doesn’t it?

The How to… series on the Learning English section of the BBC site is a wonderful resource that can keep you busy for a lifetime and that will help you to learn how to proceed when you talk to people in English, either face to face or on the phone and which may be an invaluable tool to prepare the EOI oral exam, specially the second part, where you have to discuss a topic or a situation with another student.

In the How to… series you will find dozens of six-minute lessons that can show you the way native speakers interact with each other while holding a conversation. Each lesson consists of an audio clip that you can listen to or download, its accompanying transcript, a selection of key vocabulary and structures with examples for learners to study/revise at a glance and, sometimes, activities to consolidate everything that has been explained throughout the lesson.

The lessons are grouped under umbrella topics:

As I said before, a number of six-minute lessons unfolds under each topic, focusing on a specific language function that shows what native speakers do to express that function, and how we can do it. For example, under How to hold a conversation,  some of the lessons we can study are:

  • extending a conversation
  • closing topics
  • expressing likes and dislikes
  • responding to compliments
  • talking about funny incidents
  • getting back on a topic
  • being sarcastic

I know it may not always be easy to find your way around the Learning English section of the BBC site. To get to the How to… series, once you reach the Learning English section, click on Grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, and you’ll find  the How to… series half way down the menu that unfolds.


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