Our client was about to see a very close friend get married and was delighted to be the “maid-of-honor”. The challenge: the wedding would be in America. The man her friend was marrying American and only spoke English (as would most of the guests), and per American custom: she would be expected to make a speech (no matter how short)
our client was more nervous than most, as our main focus became on asking questions, and showing interest in the people she met. This allowed her to plan what she would say when the time came. Small talk has a simple structure that we reviewed, starting from what is close to what it farthest away.
“Look at this venue, have you been here before?”
“The flowers are great, what kind are they?”
“Is this a standard ceremony in the states?”
“What do you do?”
“How long have you known the couple?”
“Did you travel in for the wedding, or do you live in town?”
Each question is designed to make the other person feel interested enough to keep talking. Small discourse markers in our speech, if used effectively, encourage the person to continue talking:
“Is that true?”
“Tell me more!”
The last part of our program was about our client’s speech. It didn’t need to be anything professional, it just needed to convey the emotion she had in mind. We helped her plan out the path of her speech, and gave her the specific vocabulary she needed to speak about the duration of time and the events she shared with her friend.
“We met IN April AT school IN late Autumn
“When we were younger WE USED TO….”
“Since we were in our teens, we HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO…”
Our client learned confidence, and some valuable conversation skills that would not only help her navigate this one situation, but which she could utilize and adapt to many situations with English-speakers in the future.