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The Experiment :1 واحد

انتخاب واحد

  1. 1 The Experiment

جلسه 10

The Experiment is a collection of short series that are a little different to our usual programmes - but still help you improve your English.

Our third series, Small Talk, lets you know which subjects it's best to avoid when chatting to British people.

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Small Talk

Subjects to avoid in British small talk: Sex

They're the conversations we have by the lifts, at bus stops and over garden fences. We call it small talk - but that doesn't mean it's of little importance. In this episode we tackle the first big conversational no-no - sex.

See what happens when Neil tries to ask Keith some rather private details. BBC Learning English Producers Kee and Sam then explain what's wrong with Neil's small talk and how he could make it better in future.

 

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Neil voiceover
I've been working at the BBC for a long time now. I've met lots of people. And I sometimes bump into them… and make small talk. They call it small talk, but that doesn't mean it's of little importance.

Keith
Neil! Hi, how's it going?

Neil
Keith! How's it going?

Keith
Yeah, not too bad, thanks. Long time no see.

Neil
Yeah it's been a while, hasn't it? You've got kids now.

Keith
I do, yes. That's why I'm looking so old and awful.

Neil
Tiring, isn't it?

Keith
It is. It is.

Neil
So… how's your sex life?

Keith
Err…

Neil
You know…  your sex life. Is it going well?

Keith
I've got to errm…

Neil
OK, see you later.

Neil voiceover
Let's see what our experts have to say about that.

Kee
He obviously asked about his children, family. That's a kind of standard thing to talk about.

Sam
Yep

Kee
But then sex…

Sam
Yeah… No!

Kee
No, no

Sam/Kee
It's not a standard thing to talk about. Especially not at work.

Kee
Would you ever ask anyone about their sex life at work?

Sam
No, I don't think… no, no. I'm trying to think if I would ask even my closest friends.

Kee
Me too, yeah.

Sam
I don't think I would.

Kee
I'm starting to feel uncomfortable talking about it now.

Sam
I won't ask you that question.

Kee
Please don't!

Sam
So, because he had a good start, I was a bit surprised that he didn't just carry on talking about children or family. That seemed to be something they had in common.

Kee
Yeah, I think he was asking about, like, whether it's difficult… he's having difficulty raising kids.

Sam
Yeah

Kee
And I think he talks about having bags under his eyes.

Sam
Yeah

Kee
Lack of sleep

Sam
Yeah, yeah. There's lots of things you can go off… from there.

Kee
Absolutely. And if you've got your own… And if you've kids of your own, you could also maybe like give advice, talk about your own experiences…

Sam
Or talk about your own kids. He didn't.

Neil voiceover
Thanks for the tips, guys. I'll try harder next time.

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Small tips for making small talk:

Subjects to avoid in British small talk: sex, salary, politics

These are examples of the topics it's best not to ask about when you are making conversation with people you don't have a very close relationship with. They can make people feel awkward and the conversation may end suddenly!

Do: try to find common ground

Use the information you have about someone as a place to start a conversation. You might ask how their job or college course is going. Then you could tell them something about your experience at work or college. If you know they have family, you could ask how they are and say something about your own family.

Don't: get too personal

Even if you do know some details about the person, it's best not to ask questions that are too personal. For example, it's fine to ask how someone's job is going but it would be awkward to ask what their salary is.

To do

Try our quiz to see what you've learnt about British small talk:

The Small Talk Quiz

3 Questions

See how much you've learnt about British small talk

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Downloads

You can download the PDF document for this episode here.

End of Session 10

Join us in Session 11 of The Experiment for Small Talk - a short series about subjects to avoid when chatting to people you don't know very well.