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Sarah and Liu Yang are two students at a university in the United States. Liu Yang has just arrived from China. They are roommates and have just met today. Sarah made a cake for Liu Yang to welcome her to their apartment at the university.

We now read examples of Sarah and Liu Yang making small talk with one another when they sit at the table and visit while eating pie. The following dialogues show how Americans make small talk at the beginning of a relationship.

Sarah and Liu Yang share some “small talk” and some pie.


In this segment of dialogues, we examine several different ways that Americans make “small talk” (informal conversations). First, read through this dialogue between Sarah and Liu Yang. Then read the dialogue as it might occur between two Americans.

SARAH: Yes, Liu Yang I just know we’re going to be fast friends. Do you like the cheese Li Yang?

LIU YANG: I’m sorry. I’m not used to this. In China we don’t eat much cheese or milk and really not with fruit and sugar.

SARAH: Well I’m so glad to be able to introduce it to you. I can’t wait for you to meet my best friend Sue, her mom’s from China too. Anyhow, she will be here first thing in the morning. We can all go to our first seminar together. I know you’ll just love her.


Now listen to the same dialogue as it might occur between two Americans.

SARAH: Yes, Linda, I just know that we’re going to be fast friends.

LINDA: I think so too. I knew I was going to like you when I saw that cheese cake!

SARAH: Oh I’m so glad.

LINDA: Although I really don’t eat much cheese or milk and I’ve never thought of putting it with fruit.

SARAH: I’m so glad to be able to introduce it to you. You know, I love to cook. I’m pretty good with desserts but not too good with meats and things.

LINDA: No problem – I have a crock pot and we can throw something in in the morning, and we’ve got our supper when we get home.

SARAH: Great. Maybe you can teach me how to do it.

LINDA: Well of course.

Explanation of the dialogue

In this dialogue, two Americans are meeting for the first time and they both know that they are going to be together for an extended time. Americans will use several techniques to “connect” with one another initially. They believe that these techniques will help them to start the first stages of the relationship. In this dialogue, each girl is looking for specific areas that they have in common with one another. For example, in this dialogue Sarah and Linda find that cooking is an area of common interest. Americans look for specific characteristics in one another to acknowledge as a way of initiating a relationship. Sarah’s comment about them being fast friends indicates to Linda that she wants them to get along. Linda’s comment about the cheesecake both confirms that she too is hopeful while also acknowledging something individual about Sarah. Sarah then accepts the “compliment” but lets Linda know she is not too proud by pointing out something she cannot do well. Linda then offers her contribution in the form of the crock pot.

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