Small talk is an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. In essence, it is polite banter about unimportant things. It is also the only road to a conversation. English learners need to remember that small talk is never left out of any conversation in English-speaking countries. It is also important to always be thinking of small talk topics.
As a student, how prepared are you for your lesson?
The goal of small talk is finding a conversation and the best way to start an interesting conversation is to find something the other person is excited about. I think conversation starters and writing prompts give students a false sense of progress and lead to nothing talk.
Nothing talk is a self-serving, detached way of communicating where the speaker does not link concepts to anything that exists outside of their own bubble. In essence, it is talking for just the sake of talking or speaking without any meaning or connection to anything. Conversation IS connecting and nothing talk is...well..nothing! Nothing talk is a loop!
The goal of speaking English is to be able to speak it with others. Why else would you want to gain the ability to speak it? The best way to build English proficiency is to focus on fluency over accuracy and the easiest way to do this is to try to speak English like your own native language. You need to be prepared!
Many English teachers love to avoid the subject of unprepared students, because it's bad for business. However, the reality is that a large number of students right now are unprepared, but join English schools because they want to learn. They can't learn without effort though. I get it too! Studying and preparing isn't fun and students, especially kids rather go through the motions, because it's easier. Let's be real, It doesn't take a lot of effort to keep an English diary full of nothing talk, keep up a textbook and answer pleasantries with stock English answers in class.
"Don't go through it, Grow through it!"
As a teacher, how many times have you felt like a police interrogator? I know I'm coming off strong in this post, but don't get it twisted. The time a student spends in-class and on-task should reflect their ability. Teachers need to be encouraging and facilitate motivation and students need to meet them in the middle.
Students learn from inquiry and not interrogation, so why does inquiry feel like interrogation? Students need to feel like a partner in the conversation and not just someone who needs to give a correct answer. It is easy to establish this relationship with motivated students by setting the tone early. Students also have an easier time talking, when they're in control of the topics. Even with conversation starters and writing prompts, students may feel confused and threatened by any followup questions.
An interesting aspect of nothing talk with adult students is its toxic positivity. This is the excessive and overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. It's used to deflect, cover up, silence and invalidate human experiences.
What if I have nothing to say?
You need to find things to talk about, which means you need to be interested in things. If you're not interested in anything, how are you interested in learning English? People love interacting with passionate people, so talk about the things that make you happy about life.
Obstacles are inevitable before success and nothing easy is worthwhile.