How to Speak Intelligently on Almost Any Subject
published by Simon Fan
This exercise can be done for as little time as you have or as much time as you have; it doesn’t matter. If you do this every day, your English will improve.
Here’s what you do.
1. Print out the list of the 100 most common words.
2. I’ve prepared a list of different types of questions and conversation/speaking topics. Pick any question from this list.
3. Each day, randomly choose words from the list of the 100 most common words in English and use those words to answer the questions.
4. You can write the answers or speak the answers.
5. If you speak the answer, try and record yourself so you can listen to yourself. No one else has to hear the recording if you don’t want them to. But, if you listen to yourself, your English will improve faster.
6. If you write the answer, you can still record what you wrote and listen to your answer.
But I Don’t Know What to Say
The biggest problems my students have had with writing and speaking usually do not involve language problems. Vocabulary, sentence structure, tense, and basic grammar can all be learned from a book or a teacher.
The hardest part of answering a speaking or writing question is thinking about what to say. Well, I’ve developed a simple system to help all my students with this and the results have been great.
Here it is:
3 Ideas that Help to Answer Almost Any Question
I thought about 3 general ideas that can be related to any question. Using this skill can help you increase your score for TOEFL, IELTS or any standardized test; it can also help you have meaningful conversations with friends; plus, it can give you the ability to express yourself intelligently to your colleagues, your boss or your clients.
With any question, if you have no idea how to answer it, try relating it to one or more of the following ideas:
If you memorize these 3 words (money, health, relationships) you will be able to give your opinion intelligently on virtually any topic. I’ve tried it for years on myself and for my students. It’s not a trick to make you look like you are smart. It is simply a way to help you organize and communicate the thoughts and feelings you already have inside you.
How Does it Work?
Let’s start with a simple question like: Describe your city.
It’s an easy question, but it’s so general that most people don’t know where to start and then they panic and can’t say anything. But, if we relate this question to one of the 3 ideas (money, health, relationships), it can get us started, which is the hardest part.
For example, I live in Toronto. If I think of money, I can say that Toronto is the financial capital of Canada. If you want to do business in Canada, this is the place to be. Another thing that is related to money and Toronto would be the movie industry. Toronto is the 3rd largest movie making city in North America (behind only Los Angeles and New York).
In connection to health, I can say that a lot of people in Toronto are health conscious. There are health and fitness clubs throughout the city and it seems that they are almost always full. Recreational sports are very popular in all seasons. And Toronto also has a thriving vegetarian community.
On the topic of relationships, I’d say that Toronto has a reputation of being a little unfriendly. But this isn’t really true. People are very friendly and helpful here. It’s also a very safe city to live in. The downtown area is full of people all day and night.
That was a very simple and short example of just getting my thoughts organized and starting to answer a question. There is much more you can say once you get started, but the hardest part is starting well. And remember, the point of this exercise is to give you a chance to practice using your vocabulary. Try it yourself. It works for simple questions and for very hard questions. Use your imagination and have a little fun.
I Feel Embarrassed to do this by Myself
Many of my students have told me that they feel they can’t do this exercise because they don’t have anyone to do it with and they feel embarrassed to do it alone.
I understand and I think it is important to remember that whenever we learn something new, there is always going to be a little embarrassment involved. We’ll make mistakes and ask wrong questions sometimes. But I have noticed that when we are willing to be a little embarrassed from time to time, it makes the learning process go faster. Please try it; it will help you so much.
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