What 5 things you should not say or do when talking with people in English

One of the most rewarding things you can do as a human being is engage in a fun and meaningful conversation with someone. It may not seem much, but talking leads to the exchange of ideas, emotions, and actions. Hey, if people did not talk with each other, there would not have been societies, civilizations, or countries. As you learn English and improve your English-speaking skill, know what 5 things you should not say or do when talking with people in English. Here they are.


Don’t fake an accent

This is one of the most common tendencies of non-native English speakers. Let us be clear here once and for all – to be an effective conversationalist in English, you don’t need to have a British or American accident. Pronounce the letters and sounds properly in order to be understand, yes, but you don’t need to have an American twang.

Your goal is neither to impress nor pretend, but to be understood. Practice proper elocution, learn how to distinguish short and long sounds, and get familiar with difficult English consonants (such as the letter ‘r’: link to the article ‘How to pronounce r like a native English speaker’).


Don’t look up, down, or to the sides.

Not looking at the person speaking to you suggests you are either uninterested or guilty of something. The fastest way to lose a friend is to not look them in the eye. Well, it is not easy looking straight into people’s eyes and overdoing it could be awkward as well. Look to a person’s eye and float your gaze from time to time to their lips, ears, or eyebrows.

React to what your friend is saying with your eyes. For instance, if he is bragging about his new shoes, look down quickly and take a look at them, or if she is showing off her wavy, blond hair, give it a look and don’t be stingy with your smile and compliments.


Don’t make it a one-way street

It is very tempting to always talk about how happy you are, how excited you are about something, or how lucky you are to have a new car. If you overdo it, though, you’d soon lose an audience.

Imagine this. You tell someone: “Hey, you know what? My boss really liked the report I turned in.

And your friend answered: “That’s great. My report was pretty good, too. A lot of people say I have a talent in creating PowerPoint presentations, and I kinda agree with them because whenever I turn in a presentation, people would say, ‘Wow, that’s great!’ or ‘I wish I can be like you’, but I tell them I really work hard and put a lot of effort into what I do because my mom always told me when I was little that I was a very good kid and all our relatives would gather around to hear me sing because I have so many talents and…”

How would you feel? Do you think there is communication going on here? I think you get the idea.

Meaningful communication involves a transmitter (the one talking), a receiver (the one listening), and feedback (taking turns responding or reacting to what was said). Do not hog the spotlight.


Avoid commenting on someone’s appearance

There are things you simply should not say. For instance, don’t say, “I can see you lost weight?” because what could come across is: “You used to be really fat,” or “You really should lose weight.” Instead you could say, “You look fantastic.”

Don’t say, “You look nice today” because what could come across is: “You looked awful yesterday,” or “You really should start fixing the way you look.” Instead you could say, “You look nice”, just drop “today”.

Don’t say, “You look tired” because what could come across is: “You don’t look good.” Instead you could say, “Is everything OK?” or “Can I help you with something?”

Don’t say, “You look good for your age” because what could come across is: “You’re old.” Instead you could say, “You look great.”

Don’t ask, “Are you pregnant?” A lot of people have gotten into a lot of trouble for this. Can you imagine if the lady you asked isn’t pregnant at all? Save yourself the embarrassment and never ask this unless you are teasing and that you know for sure that your friend is with a child.

Don’t give a simple “Yes” or “No” when the question requires a lot more because what could come across is you’re not interested. Instead say “Yes” or “No” and back it up a little to satisfy the inquiry.


Avoid making a mistake or saying the wrong words

This brings us back to the basics – learn your English well. Know what words mean and when they are most appropriate. Keep in mind that the English language has synonyms and one is more appropriate than the other in a given situation.

For instance, “think” and “ponder” are synonyms. You think about your day and you ponder on a question.

“Exercise” and “practice” are synonyms. You practice your English and you go to the gym to exercise.

“Close” and “shut” are synonyms. You close the door to keep the rain from coming in but you shut it when you’re angry.

“Sleep” and “doze off” are synonyms. You sleep at nights and you doze off when the movie is boring.


Can you think of more word pairs and ponder which one is more suitable when? To know more about words and develop a mastery in using them, visit LingualBox (link to site). They are eager to listen to you speak and engage in a conversation.

Always watch your words and how you say them. Be mindful of your hand gestures and facial expressions. Keep in mind that talking with people is a lot of fun if you know what not to say or do.


More Related Articles:

11 Easy Conversation Starters

Important Tips to Become an Effective English Listener

How To Keep a Conversation Going

Practical Tips To Remember When Learning the English Grammar

5 Easy Steps to Remember New Vocabulary

I am Edwin Estioko and I have years of experience in writing and editing for international audience. With a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Ministry, I am a published author of children's books and an elementary English textbook.