One of the most common reasons people need to improve their English is so they can socialise and network with other people. In the business world, these other people are colleagues, customers and clients – both current and future.
Barney and his regular collaborator, Pete Sharma, wrote a book called Networking in English. It is full of language and advice about how to be a more effective networker.
In the introduction to the book, Pete and Barney list nine skills a language student needs to be a good socialiser and communicator in social situations.
- You are able to express yourself fairly fluently.
- You have the vocabulary to speak about a range of topics.
- You have reasonably accurate basic grammar.
- You have fairly good listening skills, and have strategies to deal with problems like listening to fast speech and catching the main message.
- You have a knowledge of the same kinds of communication strategies used by good native speaker communicators, such as an understanding of non-verbal communication.
- You know the typical forms of interaction in various social situations, such as in a restaurant, and can use a good range of appropriate and useful phrases.
- You speak with clear pronunciation.
- You are sensitive to cultural differences between you and people from other parts of the world.
(From Networking in English, Barrett and Sharma (Macmillan: 2010)
How would you rate yourself for each of these skills? Be honest. Many people speaking English for business can talk with confidence about their companies, products and services but do not have enough vocabulary to make small talk. Some people are able to talk and talk and talk but find it difficult to understand when other people are talking, especially at noisy social events. Other people find socialising with people from other countries and cultures stressful because they are unsure about differences in acceptable behaviour.
Here are a few videos and activities you can use to test or develop your knowledge and skills.
Listen to two conversations between people meeting each other in social situations. They use a lot of standard phrases. Notice the questions they ask and the answers they give. Think about the questions and answers you would give in the same situation.
The rules of small talk
The rules of small talk are simple and easy to remember but how do you apply them in English? Watch our video. Notice how the people in the video respond in the wrong way. Pause the video and think about how you would reply before seeing the answer we gave.
Stratford Teachers pub quiz
Everywhere you go in the world, the restaurants of France, the cafés of Italy, the diners of America, the hawker centres of Singapore and the pubs of Britain, there are rules and vocabulary unique to those places that are ‘natural’ to local people but confusing to visitors from other countries.
Try our short quiz about the vocabulary used in British pubs, what it means and how we use it. What vocabulary and advice would you give to a visitor to your country?
Of course, the best way to build up your socialising and networking in English skills is to practise with a teacher who can give you instant correction and advice.
Contact us to find out how we can help you become a better, more effective and more confident socialiser and communicator in social situations.