Learning Vocabulary: Breaking the Ice
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich talk about the language you need when you meet someone for the first time. They talk about informal and formal situations and focus on the informal and formal language you can use in different situations. When should you say, 'It's an absolute pleasure to meet you' and when should you say, 'Hey, How you doing?'. It can be difficult to break the ice so Jack and Rich roleplay three different situations where you might find yourself in the future. Your task is to listen to each roleplay and write a similar dialogue using the phrases we introduce in this podcast. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we also have a new football phrase for you to guess. Enjoy!
Learning Vocabulary - Breaking the Ice
Rich: Hey Jack! You’re looking a bit tired. What have you been up to?
Jack: Yeah, well, I’ve been quite busy. I went to that arts and crafts group I was telling you about. I’m learning to whittle - you know - make things out of wood.
Rich: That’s great. How was it? Did you know anyone there?
Jack: It was good, but everybody was new. We all had to introduce ourselves.
Rich: Haha like in the classroom? I always get really nervous when I have to speak to people for the first time.
Jack: Me too. It can be really difficult to break the ice - you know to start speaking to people that you haven’t met before.
Rich: What did you do?
Jack: To be honest, it was a bit awkward. At first, we were standing around and not saying anything to each other. Polite smiles and nods of the head but no one was talking. When the teacher arrived, everything was much better.
Rich: Why? What did the teacher do?
Jack: She got us in a big circle and told us to introduce ourselves and tell us something interesting about ourselves.
Rich: I would have been super nervous. What did you talk about?
Jack: I told them about my relative John who used to play for Arsenal in the 1970s. I gave them the short version - I only spoke for 15 minutes.
Rich: I’m sure they all enjoyed that story – it’s so interesting.
Jack: What do you mean?
Welcome - Making an impression
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we are going to talk about how to break the ice.
Jack: That’s an interesting expression; break the ice.
Rich: Yes. I think it’s quite easy to understand. It used to mean to make a new path for others to follow. Like for a boat on frozen water. But now it means to start talking to someone you have not met before.
Jack: Before you start speaking, it can be awkward. If you don’t know someone, when you meet them, it can be stiff and formal. A bit like you’re frozen.
Rich: And when you start speaking, it’s like you can relax and the ice is broken. It can be tricky to do in English so we’re going to look at the language of introductions, the language you can use to talk about yourself for the first time.
Jack: And in this podcast, we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re going to roleplay three different situations. Each roleplay has a different level of English. The first is quite easy, the last quite difficult and the middle one … between the two.
Rich: After the roleplays, we will talk about the language in each conversation.
Jack: And if you have registered for our Premier Skills English Live Activity Week on the Premier Skills English website you will also see lots of extra pages and activities related to this podcast on the activity week welcome page.
Rich: If you haven’t registered for the activity week yet you can do this now by going to the Premier Skills English website. It’s free and it will help you with your English.
Jack: Finally, don’t forget to listen to the end of this podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Rich: So, we are going to do three roleplays. In each roleplay, you will hear people … us … in different situations where we are meeting people for the first time.
Jack: Your task is to listen to each situation and think about: 1. what is the situation, where are we and what are we doing? and 2. Who is meeting who for the first time?
Rich: Morning guys! I’ve got someone here that I’d like you all to meet. Our new signing from Paris St. Germain … Louis Bernard.
Jack: Brilliant! I’ve heard so much about you. It’s really great to meet you. My name’s Dave Hatchet and I play in midfield.
This is James Wall who plays in defence
Jack: and this is Bob Blocker our goalkeeper.
Jack: You’re going to be great in attack, aren’t you, Louis?
Louis: Er … oui
Rich: Louis doesn’t speak much English yet but I’m sure he’ll let his boots do the talking on the pitch.
Jack: Well, we’re all very happy to meet you, Louis, and we can help you with your English if you score a few goals for the team!
Rich: Welcome to the Premier League, Louis!
Language Focus 1
Rich: When you meet someone for the first time there are some common phrases you can use that are very useful to remember.
Jack: In the roleplay, we used the phrase It’s really great to meet you and there are lots of similar phrases you can use. Some of these are It’s nice to meet you, Pleased to meet you and how do you do?
Rich: These are quite formal. If you are meeting in a more informal situation you might say hi, how are you doing? This means the same but is more friendly.
Jack: In this roleplay, we also introduced someone else. We introduced a new player to his teammates. Did you catch the phrase we used?
Rich: the most important phrase when introducing another person is this is. In the conversation, you heard this is Bob Blocker and this is James Wall.
Jack: You also heard I’ve got someone here that I’d like you all to meet. This is quite informal and there are lots of other phrases that you might hear in different situations.
Rich: At work in a more formal situation, someone might introduce someone by saying: May I or Can I introduce my colleague.
Jack: If the situation is more informal it’s possible just to use names. For example, if I was introducing Rich to my friend John I could say: John this is Rich, Rich this is John or I could even just say John, Rich. Rich, John.
Rich: I like that. Really simple. You can practise this language a little more in the activities below this podcast or in our Premier Skills English Live lessons if you’ve registered on the website.
Jack: Let’s move on to our second roleplay. Remember while you are listening, answer these two questions: 1. What is the situation, where are we and what are we doing? and 2. Who’s meeting who for the first time?
Jack: Which floor?
Jack: Which floor would you like to go to?
Rich: Sixth floor, please.
Jack: Sixth floor, OK.
Rich: Er … the doors don’t seem to be opening.
Jack: Hmmm … no. This is not good. We seem to be stuck.
Rich: Maybe press the alarm?
Jack: Good idea. Hello? Hello?
Rich: What did they say?
Jack: We could be here for some time. This is a bit awkward.
Rich: Yes – I need the loo.
… hum or whistle
Rich: Do you work here?
Jack: Yes, I work in accounts on the sixth floor.
Rich: Pleased to meet you. Have we met before? I work on the fourth floor in performance management.
Jack: Er .. no, I don’t think so. It’s not a bad place to work, is it?
Rich: No, I’ve been here for three years now … I’m sure I recognise your face … that’s it … you’re an Arsenal fan, aren’t you?
Jack: That’s right.
Rich: They had a great result last week. I didn’t catch your name. What did you say your name was?
Jack: Jack. It’s Jack. And who do you support?
Rich: I’m a Liverpool fan.
Jack: They’re having a good season too …hang on Can you hear something?
Rich: Sounds like we’re moving again… just in time.
Jack: Well, nice to meet you again Rich.
Rich: Yes. See you around.
Language Focus 2
Jack: You don’t only meet people for the first time at meetings or at parties. You might also have to break the ice in more surprising places.
Rich: In this roleplay, we were stuck in a lift and we started to make small talk. There are lots of other similar situations where this might happen. Some examples could be waiting for a bus, train or plane that is delayed, speaking to a taxi driver or a hairdresser.
Jack: What is small talk?
Rich: Small talk is conversation that everyone feels comfortable talking about. Nothing too controversial or serious. Something light-hearted and informal. In the conversation, we spoke about where we work and football. Other common small talk topics could be the weather, holidays or maybe traffic.
Jack: We use these topics to break the ice. In the conversation, Rich said Do you work here? This started a conversation about work. And Rich asked me about my football team which started another conversation.
Rich: There are lots of common phrases that you can use to the break the ice with someone. Here are five common phrases or ice-breakers and we want you to think about where and when you could use the phrase.
Jack: Number one: Do you think it will be here soon?
Number two: Do you come here often?
Number three: Do you mind if I join you?
Number four: Have you got a light?
Number five: Did you come far to get here?
Jack: Another way to start a conversation is to give someone a compliment. A compliment is a phrase to say something nice about someone.
Rich: In the roleplay, I said Arsenal had a great result last week. I gave a compliment to Jack’s team after I found out he was an Arsenal fan.
Jack: You might give more direct compliments to start a conversation too. You could say something like I love your shoes - where did you get them from? But you shouldn’t be too personal about someone’s appearance.
Rich: We’ve got more about the language of compliments and small talk on the page below and in this week’s Premier Skills English Live material.
Jack: Let’s move on to our third roleplay.
Rich: Remember while you are listening, answer these two questions: 1. What is the situation, where are we and what are we doing? and 2. Who’s meeting who for the first time?
Rich: Good afternoon. Your name is …
Jack: My name is Jack … Jack Radford. Pleased to meet you.
Rich: Thanks for coming today, Jack. Sorry to keep you waiting. We’d like to start by asking you a few questions.
Jack: Certainly. Please. Go ahead.
Rich: Could you start by telling us why you have applied for the position of Manchester Utd manager?
Jack: Well, I’m a very ambitious person and I’ve always been interested in football. I’m a team player and I work well with others. I always use my initiative and I keep my cool in difficult situations. This would be very important on the touchline if there are any contentious decisions.
Rich: Thank you. What would you say is your greatest weakness?
Jack: Possibly my lack of experience for the job but I would more than make up for this with hard work and dedication.
Rich: What football managerial experience do you actually have?
Jack: Actually, none.
Rich: Ah, I see. Well, it’s been great speaking to you today and we will be in touch soon.
Language Focus 3
Rich: The language of job interviews is usually formal and introductions will be as well.
Jack: In formal situations, it’s a good idea to avoid using yes and no. In the roleplay I said certainly instead of yes but you could also say of course or I’d be happy to.
Rich: You need to practise talking about yourself in these situations and in more detail than when you’re making small talk like in the previous roleplay
Jack: In job interviews, you need to talk about your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses and your future goals.
Rich: Listen to the conversation again. What does Jack say about his personality, strengths, weaknesses and future goals? Do you think he’s going to get the job?
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was just a word and the word was replay. A replay is a second match that is played in some cup competitions after the first match has finished in a draw. In the FA Cup, Spurs drew with Newport County so the match went to a replay.
Rich: Well done if you got the question right. What’s this week’s football phrase Jack?
Jack: This week’s football phrase is to *** **** ***** ***. The phrase is a cliche and idiom that means to work very, very hard. You often hear managers say my players *** ***** ***** *** at the end of the match.
Rich: That’s difficult. Can we have a clue?
Jack: Alright. One word in the phrase is something you wear on your feet.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below.
Jack: And don’t forget to listen to our round-up show called ‘This Week’. And sign up for our Premier Skills English Live Lessons on the Premier Skills English homepage. Just hit the live button.
Rich: If you have enjoyed this podcast or found it useful, leave us a review or rating and that will help other people find us. Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
It can be really difficult to break the ice - you know to start speaking to people you haven't met before.
To be honest, it was a bit awkward. At first we were standing around not saying anything to each other.
There were a few more tricky words in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
Formal or Informal
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about speaking to people for the first time. We will focus on the language that we use in this podcast in lesson five of our activity week. If you haven't signed up for the activity week yet, you can do it here:
In the next section, we are going to speak about the language of formality. Jack and Rich spoke very differently in the first roleplay and the third roleplay. Look at these two examples:
Brilliant! I’ve heard so much about you. It’s really great to meet you. My name’s Dave Hatchet and I play in midfield.
My name is Jack … Jack Radford. A pleasure to meet you.
Thanks for coming today, Jack. Sorry to keep you waiting. We would like to start by asking you a few questions.
The two examples are very different. The first example is quite informal whereas the second example is quite formal. Take a look at the examples again. Why do you think we have highlighted some words in red and some words in blue?
Here are some common differences between formal and informal language:
- Informal language is often shortened; contractions such as I'm, I've, we'd are used.
- Words are often left out in informal language; how you doing? rather than how are you doing? is a common introduction and hiya! is actually a short form of How are you?
- Everyday adjectives and adverbs tend to be used more in informal greetings e.g. It's really great to meet you. We tend to use more nouns in formal language e.g. It's a pleasure to meet you.
- Formal language usually uses longer words and sentences. In the example above, you can see; We would like to start by asking you a few questions. If this phrase was more informal you might hear something like; Can we ask you a few questions?
In this activity, look at some different phrases used in greetings and introductions and decide if they are formal or informal.
What is 'small talk'?
In the second roleplay in this week's podcast, you heard Rich and Jack making small talk about work and football. Small talk is conversation that everyone feels comfortable talking about. Nothing too controversial or serious. Something light-hearted and informal. Other common small talk topics could be:
- the weather
These are common small talk topics in the UK. Are these suitable topics where you live? Some of the worst small talk topics in the UK would probably be money and politics. It's never a good idea to start a conversation with the question: How much money do you earn?!
There are lots of common phrases that you can use to break the ice with someone. Here are five common phrases or ice-breakers and we want you to think about where and when you could use the phrase. Write your answers in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
- Do you think it will be here soon?
- Do you come here often?
- Do you mind if I join you?
- Have you got a light?
- Did you come far to get here?
Your second task is to look at the photos of famous people you can see on this page and write a short dialogue. Choose one of the photos to write about. We want you to think about how to break the ice (how to start a conversation). Think about the words and phrases we have used in this podcast and whether you should use formal or informal language. This is what you need to do to write your dialogue:
- Choose one of the four photos you can see on this page.
- Greet or introduce each other.
- Ask each other a question.
- One of the people in the photo introduces you to the other person.
- Say something about yourself.
Try to use as many of the words and phrases from this podcast as you can. Write your dialogue in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
What do you think?
In this week’s podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about speaking to people for the first time.
Are you nervous when speaking to people for the first time? Do you find it easy to start conversations?
What do you normally speak about when you meet someone for the first time?
Look at the tasks above and write your answers.
Remember to write your guess for this week's football phrase, too!