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Case Study Two
Small Talk


A Chinese speaking employee was feeling timid and shy about her English. As she worked mainly with her computer at work and spoke Chinese at home, she had limited opportunities to practice the language and gain confidence. She didn’t speak up at meetings, rarely talked to co-workers and felt nervous talking to her manager.

Action #1

Her teacher and her coach taught her how to make small talk. Although small talk is not normally considered “Business English” is vitally important in the Business world. It’s how we get to know each other, make contacts, network, etc. It’s also an important way for ESL speakers to get practice with English. People who don’t make small talk are often perceived as arrogant or uninterested in others.

Action #2

This employee was still feeling shy about using what she had learned in the classroom. She and her coach explored the value of small talk and her motivation in improving her language. Her coach challenged her to have two small talk conversations a day — one with a stranger and one with a colleague at work. She took on the challenge and came back very proud of herself the next week having fulfilled the challenge — in one case having a 30-minute conversation with a fellow commuter.


This employee now feels much more confident about her ability to speak English. She now regularly and confidently speaks up in meetings and shares her valuable insights. Recently, she saved the company a day’s work by contributing her expertise. If she hadn’t had this opportunity to develop her confidence, she might not have spoken up.

Language Coaching:

  • Is an integrated approach to helping people improve their communication skills.
  • Focuses on the most important communication challenge
  • Emphasizes skills and strategy training so the learning continues after the coaching has finished
  • Encourages people to transfer the skills they learn in class into real life situations