It is not always easy to start a conversation with someone you are meeting for the first time, is it?
When this conversation is supposed to be in Spanish, things can get even more challenging.
Will they understand me? Will I understand them? Do I have enough vocabulary? Is my pronunciation good enough?
Many of you have perhaps asked yourselves these very same questions hesitating whether to dare speak Spanish with someone, or not.
Some of you perhaps chickened out.
Remember: communication in a foreign language is NOT about perfect grammar, extensive vocabulary or native-like accent. It is about your ability to express and understand ideas.
And a good topic….
Exactly! It is often not so much about HOW to say something, but WHAT to say.
In my 20 years of experience as a teacher I have seen that one of the key elements of successful communication is a good Spanish conversation starter.
How does a good conversation starter help you break the ice?
Talking to a person we’ve never met before and trying to find a topic that would be interesting for both of us is not an easy task.
This is the reason why we often rely on simple, non-committing, easy-to-answer small talk that will:
- make us feel more at ease with each other,
- will naturally lead to other topics we both find interesting.
A real-life conversation in Spanish is very different from a class experience.
It’s one thing to do grammar exercises, read texts, or listen to audio materials, and a totally different thing to actually use Spanish in a party, on the street, in a meeting, on an airplane, etc.
I am pretty sure you’ll agree with me on that one.
Now, a good Spanish conversation starter can really make your life easier.
Why? There are many reasons:
#1 – It will give you control over the topic of the conversation.
You will be the one asking questions; hence you’ll know what the answers refer to. Knowing the context of the conversation is a great help for correct understanding, especially if your level of Spanish is not very advanced yet.
#2 – It will give you some time to get used to your partner’s pronunciation and accent
And the other way around as well: it will allow your partner to see how well you speak and how much you understand so that they can adjust their speed and their vocabulary accordingly.
#3 – It will help you find shared interests.
#4 – It will allow you to relax and sink into the conversation naturally.
#5 – It will give you a chance to practice
Have you noticed how your Spanish gets better when you are relaxed?
Trust me when I tell you: never underestimate the power of a good starter to break the ice.
What are some good icebreaker topics in Spanish?
Let me show you a few ideas in different situations:
1. Getting to know each other
You don’t need much Spanish to ask simple questions about your partner’s name, his or her job, what they study or where they live. These basic questions can be very successful conversation starters.
Let me show you a casual (TÚ) and a formal (USTED) version:
🇪🇸 ¿Cómo te llamas? ¿Cómo se llama?
🇬🇧 What’s your name?
🇪🇸 ¿A qué te dedicas? ¿A qué se dedica?
🇬🇧 What do you do for a living?
🇪🇸 ¿Dónde vives? ¿Dónde vive?
🇬🇧 Where do you live?
🇪🇸 ¿Qué estudias? ¿Qué estudia?
🇬🇧 What do you study?
2. Partying or clubbing
This is where we get to meet new people most frequently, isn’t it?
Imagine: a girl or a boy of your dreams is sitting right across from you.
You haven’t met yet, but you can’t miss the chance.
What do you say?
Here’s a bunch of ideas:
🇪🇸 ¿Está buena la fiesta, no cierto?
🇬🇧 What a great party, isn’t it?
🇪🇸 ¡Qué fuerte la música!
🇬🇧 The music is so loud!
🇪🇸 ¿De dónde conoces al cumpleañero / a la cumpleañera?
🇬🇧 How do you know the birthday boy / the birthday girl?
🇪🇸 ¡El DJ es muy bueno!
🇬🇧 The DJ is very good!
🇪🇸 ¿Quieres bailar?
🇬🇧 Would you like to dance?
🇪🇸 ¿Tienes fuego?
🇬🇧 Do you have a lighter?
¿Te traigo algo para beber?
🇬🇧 Can I get you something to drink?
Another great opportunity to practise your Spanish is when you get invited to lunch or dinner.
Food makes an outstanding Spanish conversation starter to break the ice with people you haven’t met before:
🇪🇸 ¿Está muy rica la comida, no cierto?
🇬🇧 The food is delicious, isn’t it?
🇪🇸 ¿Cómo se llama este plato?
🇬🇧 How’s this dish called?
🇪🇸 ¿Este plato tiene carne?
🇬🇧 Does this dish have any meat in it?
🇪🇸 ¿Me puede acercar la sal, por favor?
🇬🇧 Can you pass me the sal, please?
🇪🇸 ¿Nunca he comido esto, cómo se llama?
🇬🇧 I’ve never eaten this. What’s it called?
🇪🇸 ¿Has probado la ensalada? Está deliciosa.
🇬🇧 Have you tried the salad? It’s delicious.
4. The weather
This is another easy way to start a conversation in Spanish.
Everyone can talk about the weather, don’t we?
It doesn’t require any special knowledge and you can use simple vocabulary and grammar.
It can also help you steer the conversation away from more difficult topics, in case your Spanish is not that great.
Here’s a short dialogue to show you how to talk about the weather with a person sitting next to you on a bus:
A: Uff, ¡qué calor hace hoy! Debe haber más de 30 grados.
B: Sí, y además hay mucha humedad en el aire. No se puede estar ni 5 minutos en la calle. Uno queda totalmente mojado.
A: Menos mal que acá hay aire acondicionado. Sino, sería imposible viajar.
B: ¿Nos vendría bien un poco de lluvia, no cierto?
Here´s the translation:
A: Uff, it is hot today. There must be over 30 degrees (Celsius).
B: Yes, and it is so humid too. You can’t stay out even for 5 minutes. You’d get all sweaty.
A: Luckily there is air-conditioning here. It would be impossible to travel otherwise.
B: It would be great if it rained a little, wouldn’t it?
5. Your experience with the Spanish language
Another good Spanish conversation starter is your own experience with the language.
It will immediately make the other person realize you are a foreigner and prepare them from any language imperfections on your side.
Plus, it comes with a bonus: both Spaniards and South Americans love gringos, especially when they make an effort to speak their language.
Here’s a sample dialogue with someone you’ve met at a party:
A: Hola, soy Luis. Me disculpo si mi español no es muy bueno.
B: Hola, un gusto en conocerte. No te preocupes, te entiendo sin problema. ¿De dónde eres?
A: Soy estadounidense, pero ahora estoy estudiando acá en Madrid.
B: Interesante. ¿Y cómo te va con el español?
Translated to English, it would sound more or less like this:
A: Hi, I’m Luis, sorry if my Spanish is not so good.
B: Hi, nice to meet you. Don’t worry I can understand you just fine. Where are you from?
A: I’m American, but now I am studying here in Madrid.
B: Interesting. And how do you find the language?
6. Football/ Soccer
As someone who has lived quite a long time in a Spanish speaking country, I can assure you that football talk always sells.
Check out a few ideas on how to break the ice with this topic:
🇪🇸 Se juega mucho fútbol en tu país, ¿no cierto?
🇬🇧 You play a lot of football in your country, don’t you?
🇪🇸 ¿Cuál es el mejor equipo de fútbol de tu país en este momento?
🇬🇧 What’s the best football team in your country at the moment?
🇪🇸 ¿Hay algún partido bueno este fin de semana?
🇬🇧 Is there any good match this weekend?
🇪🇸 ¿Quién es el mejor jugador del momento?
🇬🇧 Who’s the best football player at the moment?
🇪🇸 ¿Has visto el partido entre …… y …….?
🇬🇧 Have you seen the match between ….and…?
🇪🇸 ¿Qué te pareció cómo jugó……… el sábado?
🇬🇧 Did you like how……….played last Saturday?
What icebreakers NOT to use in Spanish
Just like there are good Spanish conversation starters, there are some risky ones too.
Generally speaking, it is better to steer away from any topics that could be potentially controversial, lead to an argument or hurt someone’s feelings.
Instead of breaking the ice they will make you drawn in cold water!
Among the “sensitive” topics that should be avoided there is:
- Politics – it can turn friends into enemies
- Religion – a sure recipe for an argument
- Marital status – you don’t want a sensible recent widower or an old spinster to start sobbing their eyes out, do you?
This is all about the Does and the Don’t of conversation starters in Spanish.
Try out some of the ideas I´ve given you the next time you get to speak this language. If you are looking for great places to try these out, check out this article on cool places where you can chat with Spanish people for free.
¡Mucha suerte y hasta la próxima!