Some people may take these tips for granted, but actually many fail to put them into action.

Basic things as these tend to be neglected unless you deliberately try to bear them in mind, just as the proverb goes, “It's always darkest just beneath the lighthouse.”

基本は、①相手を知る ②自分を知ってもらう ③打ち解けるのに役に立つような面白い話や、小ネタを持っておく④全部を理解しようとしないという4つです。
They are basically: ①find out about the person you are talking to, ②let the person know about you, ③have some stock of interesting stories and small-talk to break the ice, ④don’t try to understand everything

↑You might think, “Oh, so obvious”, but then, you should ask yourself: “Do I know exactly where Los Angeles is located?” “Do I know the differences between a shrine and a temple?”

①find out about the person you are talking to

Let’s find out what country and what part of the country they are from.

By doing that, you can gradually get an idea about what kind of English people in which part of what country speak, and also it becomes easier to ask questions such as, “Oh, you are from Oregon? It’s nice state. Life is relaxed there, isn’t it?”

They usually enjoy talking about their family.

But it would be safer not to ask their age.

It’s OK if they say it by themselves as additional information or something when they are talking about something else, and it’s also OK to answer if you are asked your age. But it would be better for you not to ask their age.

But it’s OK to say how old you are even without being asked to.

After all, America is a country where you don’t even need to write your age in your resume, so we should take that situation into consideration.

Talking about politics and religion is best avoided, but many people in English speaking countries are Christians, so it would be useful to know something about Christianity.

Do you know the differences between Catholic and Protestant? How about the differences between Scotland, England, and the United Kingdom?

②let the person know about you

This means introducing yourself.

It is very convenient if you learn beforehand how to describe your job in English.

Of course, it’d be even better if you find out beforehand what kind of English expressions are used to describe your main hobbies and interests.

If you can’t do this smoothly, the person you are talking with would find it rather difficult to keep the conversation flowing.

Let’s try to increase the stock of expressions for your self-introduction.

This will be useful when you talk in Japanese too.

It would be great if you have enough things in-stock, and the nerve to continue talking for 5 minutes nonstop!!

③have some stock of interesting stories and small-talk to break the ice

I know I always say things that sound great, but in reality I’m not the type of person who is good at talking in an entertaining way even in Japanese.

だから私の基本的な姿勢は、相手の話をよく聞いて、相手が話を膨らませていきやすいようにあいづちや質問をして(基本的には Yes, No だけで答えられるような質問を避け、疑問詞で始まる質問を増やします。特に How や Why とかです)、それを聞いているうちに、それに関連したことで自分にも語れる内容が何か思いついたときには、「そういえば自分にもこんなことあったよ~」と自分からも話を展開していく、というものです。
So what I basically do is to listen to someone well, and nod and ask questions to help them go on and expand (avoiding closed questions (that can be answered with a yes or no), and asking more open questions (that start with an interrogative), especially how and why). While listening, if I come up with something to tell them that is related to what they are talking, I contribute to the conversation by saying, “Oh, come to think about it, I have had that kind of experience too.”

Also, in English conversation, native speakers sometimes find it rare, and so interesting, just to find a Japanese person trying to talk using some funny phrases and slang.

This is limited to conversation between men, but talking about sexual matters can be really fun…
…with beer, it would be even better!

Between women, it seems that they often hit it off by talking about romance.

But this is a sensitive topic, so it’d be better to see how the other person responds to you after talking about yourself.

④don’t try to understand everything

By going through the steps in the beginning of this textbook, you will have developed a good ear for English sounds.

Even so, you will not be able to understand everything native speakers say.

Each person has their own accent.

Also, they will almost always use some words or slang you won’t know. If you concentrate too much on these things, you may end up missing the whole point.

First, let’s try to grasp the point of the story.

At the same time, you could pay attention to words and phrases you can catch but don’t know if you can.

余談ですが、英語を教えていると「私はイギリスには興味ありません」とか「TOEIC の勉強だけをもっと教えてください」といわれることがよくあります。
Incidentally, when I teach English, I often hear students say, “I’m not interested in the United Kingdom.” or “I only want to learn things useful for TOEIC.”

As everyone is in different circumstances, I do understand that. But for example, whether you are interested only in America or not, the U.K. has really had a lot to do with American history and diplomacy.

TOEIC の点が何で欲しいかって、クビになるから仕方なくとかならわかりますが、基本的にそれを実際の英語に役立てたいわけですよね。興味を広く持っていただきたいです。
Some people might study for TOEIC just to avoid getting sacked but basically, you study for TOEIC hoping it will help you when you actually use English, right? Then it never hurts to have a wide range of interests.

This is another digression, but talking about the differences between Catholic and Protestant, one of my acquaintances, who lived in an English speaking country for a long time and came back, had no understanding of the differences.

The English man who was with us was dumbfounded at that, so I explained to her. He was nodding and looking relieved.

Isn’t this one of the things we should know at the very least? What do you think?