Hi, I'm Vanessa from SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com.
Are you living in the US or another English-speaking country but you still don't have many opportunities
to use English?
Let's talk about it.
If you live in the US, England, Australia, or another English-speaking country, you probably
know that just because you live in an English-speaking country doesn't guarantee that you become
a fluent English speaker and that you have tons of chances to speak English every day.
I've had so many English learners tell me, "I've been living in the US for five years,"
or 10 years, or even 20 years, "but I'm still not a fluent English speaker.
How can I do this?"
Well, how can you become a fluent English speaker?
You need to speak.
You need to have practice speaking.
But it's not always that easy, right?
Today I'd like to share some of my top tips for using English in the US.
This applies to other English-speaking countries as well.
But because I'm from the US, I'm just going to say that because that's what I'm familiar
If you are not living in the US, you can check out my video How to Learn English from Home
up here, which gives you a lot of great ideas for starting to speak English now even though
you're not in an English-speaking country.
These tips are for using English, not necessarily for making lifelong friends, but you can use
them to make friends, too.
So at the end of this lesson, I'm going to give you three tips to help you go from just
having a casual conversation to having something deeper, maybe a deeper friendship with someone.
But you'll have to wait till the end of the lesson for that golden piece of information.
Let's get started with some ideas for using English in the US.
My first tip is to go to the grocery store and have a question prepared.
Of course, just like anywhere, some people are going to be talkative, some people are
not going to be talkative.
Maybe you try to have a conversation with someone and they just don't really say that
But I recommend going to especially a grocery store called Trader Joe's.
I've mentioned this place before.
But it's kind of a requirement for working there that everyone is amazing at small talk
and they're used to striking up conversations with customers.
So if you're visiting a city that has a Trader Joe's, go there.
Ask a cashier or ask someone who's working there, "Have you ever used this butternut
How would you cook it?" or, "It seems pretty busy here.
Do you usually get busy when it's raining?"
Just prepare a couple of questions, simple questions, but you can use English and you
can also hear their natural responses because they're usually pretty good at small talk.
There's another grocery store called Publix.
I think it's just in the south of the US.
But usually, people who work there are also really friendly and usually the cashier has
a quick conversation with each of the customers, so it's a good way to start off by using English
in daily life.
My second tip for using English is to join an exercise class or team, yoga, kickboxing,
Pick up basketball.
The key here is class or team.
You're doing it with other people.
If you just join a gym and run on the treadmill, you don't have really opportunities to speak
with other people.
But when you join a class, you already have something in common.
And you're kind of together in this communal setting, so you could even ask someone, "Oh,
have you done zumba before?
Is this your first time in this class?"
Use what you have in common, which is being in that class, and ask a good question.
You can prepare that question in advance, but it's a great way to use English.
And who knows, because you already have something in common, you might strike up a friendship.
My third tip for using English in the US is to join a local art class.
Maybe it's pottery, or knitting, or papermaking.
Usually, local community colleges will host one-day classes or maybe a local art studio
will host this, but this is a great way, again, to be together with other people in this communal
You can just Google pottery classes in Miami or wherever you happen to be living and you
can find these.
But, this is very important, I recommend not inviting a friend who speaks your native language.
If you go with a friend who speaks your native language, you're probably not going to be
pushed to use English.
So use this chance to forget your native language and immerse yourself in English.
My fourth tip to help you use English is to volunteer in your community.
There are a ton of ways to do this and you don't need to commit to every week or every
You can do this occasionally, and it's a great way to, of course, use English and also help
the community and feel good yourself.
Some ideas are feeding meals to the homeless in your city, or passing out programs at your
community theater, or gardening, or helping with the pets from the animal shelter.
You could pass out meals with the program Meals on Wheels.
This is actually great for the whole family.
You go to elderly people's homes and you give them a pre-prepared meal, have a quick little
Maybe you put the meal in the fridge for them.
Then you say goodbye and you leave.
This program is really cool.
So if you are in the US, I recommend checking it out.
Or maybe you go to a retirement home and you just have a chat with some of the people there.
Oftentimes, retirement homes can be lonely places, so just having the opportunity to
talk with someone, even if your English is limited, just talking with someone, asking
them, "Tell me about your childhood.
Do you have any pictures of your family?"
Those people love to talk about that stuff.
The holiday season is a common time to volunteer.
So during Christmas, a lot of organizations, local organizations or local churches, will
This means they're bringing a lot of supplies in where they'll be giving that to people
who need it in the community.
Maybe that's clothes.
Maybe it's food.
But these organizations need volunteers to help put those things in boxes and maybe even
deliver them to the families in the community.
Christmas time is a great time to start getting involved in that and hopefully continue it
after Christmas, too.
If you have kids in school, ask your kid's teacher, "How can I help?
How can I volunteer?"
Maybe that means you go on a field trip with your kid's class and you help to watch some
of the kids.
Or maybe after school some kids need tutoring or need some help, or maybe the teacher just
needs some help in the classroom.
There are a lot of ways that you can help in a school system.
I hope that these volunteer ideas gave you some inspiration.
Go out and do it and use English.
My fifth tip to help you use English is to introduce yourself to your neighbors.
These are the people that you're going to be seeing a lot because you live close by,
so take up your courage, bake some cookies, and knock on their door.
When I first moved to this house, I baked some chocolate chip cookies, which everybody
loves, and I put them in a little bag.
I put our names on the bag so that they could know my name, my husband's name, my child's
name, and I just knocked on my neighbor's door and said, "Hi, I'm Vanessa.
I'm your new neighbor.
I just wanted to come by and say hi and give you these cookies."
I recommend having this little introduction maybe memorized in your mind just so you feel
prepared because I felt a little bit nervous knocking on a stranger's door and maybe you'll
feel the same way, too.
But with a little bit of preparation, it's no problem.
And who doesn't want to get cookies?
I just recommend be prepared to spend a little bit of time because if your neighbor is like
to talk, if they're a little bit lonely, maybe if they're a little bit older, you might be
at their house for one hour, maybe two hours.
Because older people who live in the neighborhood, especially the older neighbors who I met,
they love to talk about their family, their pets, raising their kids, the people who used
to live in your house, the people who used to live in your house 40 years ago.
This is just a good way, of course, to connect with someone, to hear English, and just feel
comfortable because this is a real English situation.
My sixth tip for using English is to find a local meetup using Meetup.com.
I've talked about Meetup.com a lot in past videos, but this is a great way to connect
with other people who have common interests, and usually it's a free meetup.
So you can just go to Meetup.com, type in your city, like Boston, and you can look at
hundreds of free meetups with people from around Boston.
I recommend starting with maybe a walking meetup or a hiking meetup.
Because when you're walking in the woods or maybe going for a hike in a park, you have
to kind of have conversations with other people.
It's a good situation for conversation.
You don't need to feel stressed about having conversations with them.
But if you want to connect with someone else, going for a walk in nature is a great way
to do it.
And a lot of people use Meetup.
So if you're in the US, you will find a ton of meetups.
And if you're not in the US, you can check out Meetup.com, too.
There are a lot of options internationally.
A lot of international people use that website.
So even if you're in Tokyo, you might find some English speakers going to meetups in
Tokyo, so it's great for everyone.
My seventh tip for using English in the US is if you have kids, take your kids to children's
Almost every library has a story time.
That's once a week where the librarian reads stories to toddlers or to elementary school
kids and you can meet other parents in your neighborhood.
There's also often Tiny Tots type meetups where it's under five years old kids who meet
up at the local community center and they have some games or little toys they can play
with and you can connect with other parents.
But I just want to let you know that even native English speakers, I'm sure it's the
same for people in your country, can have difficulty striking up a conversation with
So don't wait for someone else to approach you and say, "Oh, hi.
Where are you from?" and talk about that.
I want you to take the initiative.
If your kid is playing with someone else's kid, talk with that parent and say, "Oh, do
you live in the area?
Do you go to any other child-friendly activities in the city?"
I ask these questions all the time.
I'm also curious what other people do with their kids in the city, but it's just a good
way to have a conversation with someone else.
So prepare a couple of questions.
If you'd like a couple more questions, in that video I mentioned previously about how
to start a conversation with anyone, almost all of those questions I use with people who
I ask them in a park, or at story time, or at these kinds of children's events.
Some people use having kids as an excuse to not have friends.
They feel stuck at home.
They don't really know what to do or it's hard to get out.
But personally, I've found that after having my child, I have more friends now than ever
before because I need to get out and he needs to get out.
And it's so healing to connect with other people who are in the same exact place in
Also, kids are great icebreakers.
Kids just talk with each other.
They play with each other.
They don't feel nervous usually about connecting with other kids.
We could learn a lot from how they interact with other.
Number eight is if you have a dog, take your dog to a dog park or just to a park.
There's a joke in my city that the best way to find a girlfriend is to take your dog for
a walk in the park, or even take your friend's dog for a walk in the park, because people
can't resist petting dogs and talking about them.
If you don't have a dog, you can still talk to people who have dogs.
I recommend preparing some questions about dogs.
Or if you have one, realize that people ask you those questions, so prepare some answers.
Oftentimes, people ask, "What kind of dog is it?
What's his name?
How old is he?"
These are simple, but typical questions that people ask about dogs.
So prepare to answer them if you have a dog.
And if you don't have one, prepare to ask those questions.
It's a good way to use English.
Usually people who have dogs love to talk about them, so don't be afraid to approach
a stranger, especially if you see a super cute dog that you want to pet.
Now it's time to take it to the next level.
Let's say that you talk with someone during a hiking meetup, you have a good conversation,
you connected well, and you want to meet up with them again.
It doesn't need to be a romantic date.
It's just a friendship.
So how can you take your conversation to the next level?
Well, there's a famous proverb, to have a friend, you need to be a friend.
So what kind of friend would you like to have?
Would you like to have a friend who's funny, curious, kind, a good listener, adventurous?
Whatever traits you would like your friend to have, make sure that you are showing those
If you want someone to be a good listener, you should be a good listener, too.
To get started, if you want to make friends, there are four important tips that you need
Number one, you don't make a friend by just talking about the weather.
You need to open up and talk about something that's important to you or something that's
difficult in your life right now.
For example, you might ask, "How long have you been volunteering here?"
And when they say, "Oh, just two months," you could say, "Oh, nice.
I always wanted to volunteer at a place like this in my home country, but I just never
had time to do it, so I'm really glad to be doing it here."
You're showing passion and interest, and you're opening up a little bit about a difficulty
you had in your home country, and you're connecting just on a slightly deeper level.
The second way to take your friendship to the next level is don't forget to listen when
the other person is speaking.
We all know this, but sometimes we forget, right?
It's easy to think about what you're going to say next, especially if you're speaking
in English, which isn't your native language.
It's easy to just think about, "Okay, they asked this.
How can I formulate the best answer?" but you're not listening to what they're continuing
It's okay to sit back and just say, "Oh.
Oh, how long have you been doing that?
You're just listening.
Maybe you ask some ongoing questions like, "Oh, who are you with?
When did you do that?"
These simple questions, but you're listening.
You're engaged in what they're saying.
That is a great way to make a friend.
Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and they also love when other people are interested
in what they have to say.
The third tip for making a friend is if you find something you have in common with something
else, don't let it slip away.
Talk about it.
So if someone says that they used to live in New York, you might say, "Oh, I went to
New York once.
It was a great trip.
Why did you decide to leave?"
Here you're saying, "I was at the place that you were.
We have this thing in common."
You didn't just say, "Oh, you lived in New York.
You're trying to find a connection.
It could be anything else.
But when you have something in common, it's a great way to start a conversation and to
just find more things that you have in common to see if you're a good fit.
The fourth tip for making a friend is to just take the initiative.
I talked about this a little bit before.
Don't wait until the other person asks you to meet up.
If you've been talking about their world travels, just say, "Hey, I'd love to hear more about
your world travels.
That sounds so interesting.
Do you want to go and get coffee sometime this week?
I'd love to hear more about it."
What is the worst that could happen?
They say, "Oh, I don't want to talk more about my world travels," or, "I'm too busy.
Let's do it the next week."
Oh, that's not too bad.
Just go for it.
In today's lesson, you learned how to use English in an English-speaking country and
how to make friends.
Great lifelong tips.
What a valuable lesson today.
If you're planning on just visiting the US for a short period of time, you can still
use these tips so that you have an opportunity to use English, use what you've been learning
while you're here.
And now I have a question for you.
What do you think are some other ways that you can use English while you're in an English-speaking
I recommend reading the comments so that you can get some other great ideas from other
Thank you so much for learning English with me, and I'll see you again next Friday for
a new lesson here on my YouTube channel.
The next step is to download my free ebook, Five Steps to Becoming a Confident English
You'll learn what you need to do to speak confidently and fluently.
Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more free lessons.
Thanks so much.