Do You Struggle with Small-Talk?

One of the best books I’ve read…

… is “Don’t sleep, there are snakes”, by Daniel Everett.

Everett was a Christian missionary. He went to live in the jungle with a tribe of Amazonian Indians called the Pirahã to spread the word of god. But his experience was so profound that he gave up Christianity and become a linguist.

One of the things Everett talks about is “phatic” language in Pirahã. Phatic communication is a very important part of English.

Watch this video:

The Pirahã is an extreme (and very rare) case.

But this is important because no matter how you try to translate “how’re you?” into Pirahã, it’ll never make sense. Because you’re expressing a concept that the Pirahã people don’t have.

If you’re struggling with small-talk in English, start by asking yourself: am I stubbornly trying to express things that the people I’m talking to don’t express?

We’ll continue this conversation tomorrow.

But in the meantime…

On the 27th of this month, I’m doing Small Talk Superhero, live in Tokyo.

Click here to claim your place. The price goes up on January 12th at 11:59 pm JST.


Julian Northbrook
The Language Punk

P.S. If you struggle with using this kind of “phatic” language, click here for several EES lessons on this topic. You need to be a member to access this. If you’re not a member, you can become one here.


If you liked this video, share:

Meet the Author

Julian Northbrook

Julian Northbrook is an unconventional punk of the business English learning world. A leading expert in English education and direct response marketing, he’s fully equipped to drag you kicking and screaming from English-mediocracy to speaking at an outstanding level. After being turned down for his dream job in the art industry, Julian suffered three long years as a crap Japanese speaker. He understands exactly what it’s like to feel like a total idiot every time you speak. But Julian overcame his language problems, mastered the language, and went on to work first as a freelance translator, then as an executive member of a Japanese company. But he soon grew sick of the corporate world and left it to pursue something infinitely more satisfying — running his own business helping small business owners and entrepreneurs get so good at English that they forget that it’s not their first language. He writes the infamous Doing English Daily Newsletter which you can (and should) subscribe to.