English Conversation Training (Workout #3)

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Ready for your next English Conversation Workout? Reaching the point where your pronunciation sounds natural and relaxed takes practice.

So, I’ve got 20 minutes of speaking practice in this lesson to help you sound more natural when you meet someone and respond to their questions!

Get more practice here:

Video Transcript
Section 1

Well hey there this is Emma from mmmEnglish. Things have been getting pretty physical over here at mmmEnglish lately. Have you seen any of my conversation workouts yet?

Today’s lesson is another workout and we’re going to focus on some common and some natural ways to respond to everyday greetings. So we’re going to revisit some of the expressions that we practised in the first conversation workout but instead of practising how to ask questions, we’re going to practise how you can respond to them.

And if you have any friends in English-speaking countries, this lesson is going to be particularly helpful for them to help them sound more natural as they’re speaking with native speakers. So be a good friend and share it with them, alright?

So I hope you’re ready to practise out loud with me. It’s workout time!

Alright guys we’re back! Welcome to your next English conversation workout. In case you missed the last one, you can go back In case you missed the last one, you can go back and check it out later up here or look for this thumbnail in the playlist.

Once again this workout is an intensive ‘repeat after me’ style lesson designed to help you work those style lesson designed to help you work those your speaking skills and your listening skills at the same time. And by the time you’re finished, at the same time and by the time you’re finished, you’re going to feel more natural, more casual just like a native English speaker which I know is what so many of you really want.

The most important part of these workouts is not getting everything technically and grammatically correct. It’s about feeling relaxed, finding your rhythm and letting the words roll off your tongue. Don’t worry about being perfect, let’s just have some fun. I’m your English coach and you’re about to start your daily workout.

This workout is going to follow a very similar pattern as the last one, you’ll do four sets of five similar phrases and we’re going to practise each phrase three times. You’ll listen to me first three times. and then try it yourself. You’ve got to join in okay?

Make sure you’re somewhere quiet and be ready to speak out loud at normal volume. No whispering okay? Best not to use headphones, use the speaker on your phone or on your computer so that you can hear me and you can hear yourself clearly as well. This is not a passive lesson. This is a workout. Get ready!

This is a workout. Get ready! there’s a lot of back and forth short answers, and we’re using this time to get to know each other, helping each other to feel a little more comfortable. So the answers are usually quite brief. It’s a little bit like tennis, you know? Back and forth, back and forth.

The conversations often start with “How are you?”. Because it’s so common, there are just so many different ways to respond. Sometimes the expressions are a little weird and kind of confusing and the tone is also weird and kind of confusing and the tone is also really important. The tone does most of the communicating when you’re introducing yourself. There’s a really big difference between “Yeah, good thanks” and “Yeah, good thanks”. The words give you hardly any information at all. It’s all in the tone.

Now in these first few short exchanges, it’s really important that you reflect the tone of the person who’s speaking rather than speaking in full meaningful sentences. That’s more important. The tone. So if they’re a little understated then you should be too. Or if they’re filled with excitement, well you can reflect that right back at them to help them feel comfortable and relaxed. It’s really weird if you come at each other with different tones.

Oh my god, hi!

Shall we begin?

So let’s say someone asked you “How are you?”

There’s nothing particularly exciting about their tone of voice so you might say: “Yeah good.”

That’s a conversation killer.If someone asks you, you’ve got to return the question, right? So we say “Yeah, good and you?”

Now don’t ask me what ‘yeah’ is doing there. This is extremely common in Australian and British culture.

Yeah, good and you?

Now notice how I’m not using anywhere near the full sentence: Yes, I am good and how are you?

I’m simply saying “Yeah, good and you?”
You try it!

Yeah, good thanks and you?

Or and alternative could be: Yeah, pretty good. How about you?


Yeah, pretty good. How about you?

That’s it!

So like this, ‘pretty’ means quite, quite good. So make sure you reduce down that question to help you sound a bit more natural and relaxed.

Great! Let’s do the next one!

Hi Brooke! How are you?

Notice that there’s more excitement in my voice there? So let’s match that with our answer.

Really good, thanks!

So let’s match that with our answer.

Really good!

So if R and L sounds are a little challenging for you So if R and L sounds are a little challenging for you a few more times.

Really good, thanks!

But we’re not always great and amazing, right? Well usually we don’t want to dive into all of our problems so early in a conversation right? Even if we’re not feeling our best. Mostly we just want to move past this part of the conversation so I want to give you a few responses to help you to say.

So try: “Not too bad.”

So there’s a little trick with this response. “Not too bad” actually means good – strange as that sounds. And “not too good” actually means that you’re not doing well so you’ve got to be careful here.

Now I wouldn’t use “not too good” unless you knew the person well and you really wanted to share the problems that you’ve been having with them, usually we don’t, we just want to move on through that part of the conversation. So “not too bad” can help you to do that.

Not too bad. How about you?

Excellent! Very, very casual.

Yeah, I’m okay.

So the tone here is really important. It’s telling the real message, right? Nothing exciting is happening.

I’m okay. Can’t complain!

So in English, we use this expression “Can’t complain” to show that we’re really grateful for what we have to show that we’re really grateful for what we have at the moment, you’re kind of happy about it. You know? You have nothing to complain about.

Yeah, I’m okay. Can’t complain! How are things with you?

Fantastic! This is fun! Let’s keep going. So after these first few exchanges, our attention usually turns to what else is going on, right? Perhaps in the near future.

So you might get asked
“What are you doing?”
“What are you up to?”

So like the last set this is still small talk, we’re just exchanging short answers for now and we’re just exchanging short answers for now and we’ll go into more detail.

So when someone asks you “So what are you up to tomorrow?” you might just say “Not much.”

Good! Really casual right? You can’t hear that sound in ‘not’. In fact, saying ‘not much’ usually lets the other person know that you’re open for ideas about doing something.

Not much.
Not much. What about you?

Great! Of course, sometimes you might not actually want to do anything. You might want to do nothing. We all have days like that, right? So in that case then using ‘just’ at the start is a really good way to signal to the other person that you’re limiting yourself to that activity. You’re probably not going to do anything else.

Just taking it easy.

Listen again.

Just taking it easy.

So ‘just’ is unstressed, you just hear the schwa. And hear how the two words actually come together.

That T sound is only pronounced once. And actually, that sound at the end can even reduce down to the sound.

Just taking it easy.

Good! One more time.

Just taking it easy, probably just chilling out at home.

Nice! Very relaxed.

So let’s practise what you might say if you actually do hav eplans though maybe they’re not quite confirmed yet.

So we’re going to practise using the word ‘hopefully’.

So if someone asks you “So what are you doing later?”, you can say: “Going out for dinner hopefully.”

So notice how I drop the subject there because I is not necessary, the question was directed at me so I don’t need to say that it’s me in the answer.

Going to the movies with my boyfriend, hopefully! Good! And you can also switch it to the front as well.

Hopefully, heading into the city with some friends!

Awesome! In the next one, we’re going to replace ‘hopefully’ with ‘actually’.

So your plans are confirmed now, okay? You’re not hoping that it’s going to happen, you know it’s going to happen okay? So, “Going out for dinner, actually.”

Can you feel the difference between those two sentences?

Going to the movies with my boyfriend, actually!
Actually, I’m heading to the city with some friends!

Perfect! Okay, one more in this set. Perhaps you’ve got a lot of things to do right? A lot of places to be, people to see you’re very, very busy. So when someone asks:
“So what are you up to at the moment?”
or “What are you doing later?”

You can use the word ‘on’ okay? So without going into too much detail, in English we use the word ‘on’ to refer to what we have on our schedule or on our list of things to do. It’s really, really common to hear native speakers use this all the time so try this.

I’ve got so much on.

That’s it! Saying this means that you’re really, really busy. You’ve got a lot on your plate, okay? There’s lots of things on your list to do, so much on.

I’ve got so much on at the moment.

One last time.

I’ve got so much on at the moment. I’m flat out with work!

These first two interactions are ones that I want you to practise as much as you possibly can. They happen almost every time you start an English conversation. In fact, if you can think of some other answers to those questions then please add them to the comments.

Remember to listen for the tone of the other person’s voice and try and reflect it back on them in a positive way. A great place to practise this is in classes with native teachers in online language schools like Lingoda. Every class starts like this, right? Whether it’s private or a group class, a few minutes of casual chitchat before the main lesson starts. Anyway let’s keep moving.

The weather! Don’t we just love chatting about the weather? Well, imagine if you could sound just a little bit more relaxed when you do it. Let’s try it.

What’s the weather doing?
A little bit of rain this morning but it’s starting to clear up.

So the tone that I’m using suggests that this is quite normal, nothing too exciting, right?

A little bit of rain this morning but it’s starting to clear up.
Well it was quite sunny this morning, but the clouds have started to roll in now.

Nice one!

Now what if the weather is really, really nice? So you want to use some stronger adjectives to express this.

Oh, stunning!
Oh it was stunning yesterday!

Did you hear that really soft ‘oh’ there? And with an adjective like this, I’m using stress to emphasise the meaning.

Oh, it’s going to be stunning tomorrow.

We do the same with other adjectives too.

Oh it was beautiful this morning!

Push down on that adjective.

It’s perfect outside today.

One of the questions in this video was “What’s the weather like on the weekend? Any good?”

Now this is another example of native speakers reducing the number of words that they use in really common expressions so it just means is the weather nice? So the answer is yes or no but just saying yes or no is definitely a conversation killer. You want to give some more detail to help the other person to react and respond to you.

Alright let’s emphasise the weather in a really natural sounding way, the way that native speakers use all the time. They start the sentence with ‘pretty’ and finish it with ‘actually’. And this has the effect of showing that we’re somehow surprised at how the weather is but we’re also confirming that it’s true.

Pretty hot, actually!

Good! Now cloudy.

Pretty cloudy, actually!
Pretty miserable, actually!

Yes you can use this adjective to describe the weather. ‘Miserable’ just means rain, cloud, cold, drizzly, you know when you’re talking about the weather. That’s miserable.

Now what if the weather is just the same as it always is, whatever that may be. So you could say:

The usual. Sunny with a few clouds.
The usual. Absolutely freezing.

So notice how much my tone and my body language was communicating there?

The usual. Freezing this morning but it’s been warm this afternoon.

Okay the last one now. Do you live somewhere where the weather is constantly changing? Like four seasons in one day?

What’s the weather like on the weekend? Any good?

It’s been all over the place today.
It’s been all over the place this week. Rain, hail, sunshine, everything!
It’s been all over the place today. Hot one day, cold the next!

Awesome! So for your last set we’re going to push your skills a little harder by bringing everything together. You’re going to answer the question and then pass the conversation back to the other person with a question of your own right? Just like you would in a normal regular conversation. Are you ready?

So let’s go back to our first question, how are you?

Yeah good! How about you? What have you been up to?

Excellent! Very casual, not too excitable.

Yeah good! How about you? What have you been up to?

Excellent! One more time.

Yeah I’m okay. How about you?

Yes! Next one. Again, how are you?

Hi Brooke! How are you?

So you can hear just how much more interested I am in your answer, right? Because of the tone I used so let’s try and reflect that in our response.

Really good! I’ve got so much on at the moment! How about you?

Yes! One more time!

Yeah, really good actually! So much on at the moment! You?

Yes! Well done! Next question. So what are you doing later on?

Going out for dinner, hopefully. What are you guys doing?

Yes! So let’s stress the subject now.

Going out for dinner, hopefully. What are you guys up to?

And now let’s firm up our plans and use ‘actually’ instead.

Going out for dinner, hopefully. What are you guys up to? Got any plans?

That was a mouthful! If you got that, awesome!

So what’s the weather doing?

Pretty sunny, actually! What’s it like at your end?
It’s pretty cold, actually! Nice day where you are?

Perfect! Notice that we’re using intonation only to signal what our questions are.

Yeah, it’s a bit chilly, actually! What about where you are? Any good today?

So natural, so good! Well done!

Okay our last phrase for our last set, okay? Now you’re actually going to be answering a two-part question so someone asks “Hey how’s it going? What’s been happening?”

Hey! I’m going okay. Can’t complain really.
Not too much news to report. How about you?
Yeah… Really good, just taking it easy at the moment! What about you?

Yes! Okay last one now.

Yeah really good, actually! I’ve got so much going on at the moment. How are you going?

You are absolutely amazing! That last one was a bit of a mouthful, wasn’t it? So phew, how are you feeling after your workout? Exhausted?

Well keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal to feel exhausted after a workout right? In fact, that’s when you know that you’ve really been making progress. Even though they’re really simple and super common, it’s so good to practise these phrases and expressions often. You are guaranteed to put them into practice because they’re the type of questions that come up all the time. The more you practise, the easier it’s going to be to help these expressions roll off your tongue naturally.

So make sure you save this video and come back to workout with me regularly, okay? Here are a few other workout lessons to help you practise your natural pronunciation and expression. I’ll see you in there!

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