Breaking the Ice in English

Rick Broadaway

Perhaps you have had the experience of meeting a “gaijin” somewhere around town, wanting to say something to him or her in English, but not knowing what to say. Most people would probably say “Hello” or “Nice to meet you” or something like that. In fact, as a foreigner living in Japan, I am used to complete strangers coming up to me and saying, “Hello!” Sometimes they enjoy it so much that they say it twice, or three times. Sometimes they will shout it at me from across a street over and over until I respond in kind. I appreciate their friendliness, but I sometimes wish that such encounters were more genuine and interesting.

The next time you want to start up a conversation with a stranger in English, try the following “ice breakers.”


You: Hi! Are you tourist here?
Foreigner: No, I am a student.
You: Oh, where are you studying?


You: Excuse me, do you speak English?
Foreigner: Yes, a little.
You: Where are you from?


You: Excuse me, but may I be of assistance?
Foreigner: Oh, yes! Thank you. I am trying to figure out what time the next bus will come.
You: (Looking at the bus schedule) Okay, let’s see…there is a bus in about five minutes.


You: (Sitting on a train) What’s that you’re reading?
Foreigner: (Reading a book) Oh, it’s just some light reading I bought for the train ride.
You: What’s it about?


Comments are closed.