Learn collocations! A collocation is a pair or group of words which often occur together.
For example, think about the British obsession with weather. We talk about it all the time, even with people we don't know! It's easy to talk about rain, snow, wind or fog, but which adjectives can we use to be more accurate and interesting? To expand your knowledge of weather collocations, try watching TV weather forecasts. They are are full of common collocations: wintry weather, isolated showers, sunny spells, torrential rain, blustery winds. If you don't fancy watching TV, find the weather forecast section of the BBC website and see which word combinations occur commonly.
At ECS Scotland, we regularly include class activities on collocations, both in groups and 1-to-1. It's easier and more useful (and more fun!) to learn words like this than individually, and you'll sound more like a native speaker when you use them, especially when the nice old man at the bus stop strikes up a conversation with you!
Phrasal verb: To strike up = to start to strike up a conversation with somebody = to start a conversation