Five Spanish Conversation Starters

Image 29While guided tours and sampling local cuisine are good ways to familiarize with a new culture, you won’t really have the full experience unless you put yourself out there and try and talk to locals. Of course, if you’re just starting out learning the language it is even more nerve-wracking to break the ice with total strangers. Approaching the situation with confidence is key, but it also helps to have a few conversation topics in your arsenal. Here are some good, non-generic but universal Spanish phrases that are appropriate for both business and social situations when you want to get the conversation started.

¿Qué alimentos debería probar mientras estoy aquí?

Translation: “What food should I try while I’m here?”

Food brings us together, so it’s perfectly natural to jump straight to that topic when trying to connect with people. And when you travel, you’ll find that people tend to take extreme pride in their favorite local dishes. These are the things that help define areas. For instance, you can’t visit the city of Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon without trying cabrito asado—barbecued young goat. And when you ask someone what you should try chances are you’ll spark a conversation or even a lively argument about the best place to get it. Bonus points if they offer to go there with you.

¿Dónde compraste tus zapatos?

Translation: “Where did you buy your shoes?”

…Or suit, dress, tie, jacket, bag—whatever aesthetically pleasing style choice your conversation target is sporting that you admire—ask them about it! For one, it’s always flattering when someone compliments your style so when you ask them where they got their cool pumps or hand-tooled leather bag it will make them feel appreciated, relaxed, and open to conversation. Second, if they happened to buy their piece in the city you’re in you might receive some information on a great shopping spot.

¿Dónde has viajado?

Translation: “Where have you travelled?”

It’s a big world out there and chances are whomever you’re speaking to has seen some of it. Everyone has great travel stories that liven up conversations, so opening that door is a great way to initiate. Be prepared to participate; maybe you’ve been to the same place as your new friend and you can form a friendly bond over how amazing Carnaval is in Rio de Janeiro or how a trip to see the Northern Lights should be required for everyone in the world with sight.

¿Qué superpoder tendría?

Translation: “What super power would you have?”

We’ve all thought about and have our go-to answers. This hypothetical is non-invasive and appropriate in formal business situations where there may be a lull but you want to keep the communication flowing.  There’s also the added benefit that many of the words for common super powers in Spanish are quite similar to their English counterparts. Telepathy? Telepatía. Invisibility? Invisibilidad. Anything you don’t know can turn into a fun game of charades as you try and decipher what fuerza estupenda is.

¿Qué lugar tengo que ver aquí?

Translation: What place must I see here?

You don’t want to spend your trip solely enjoying the views from the windows of your office and hotel. No matter where you are there will be something worth the trip to notice. Whether it’s a spot on a mountain where you can see the whole city or a strip of streets with historic street murals, you’ll want to put on your comfortable shoes and make the effort. Better than a travel guidebook is a local in the flesh who may be able to fill you in on the ins and outs of when to go, how to get there, and what to bring.

Of course, these are all conversation starters. If you want to be able to keep up with the conversation you’ll need to know the ins-and-outs of the Spanish language. Not sure where to start? Contact us and we’ll help point you in the right direction. Have a bit of background in Spanish but afraid you’re a little rusty? Take our online Spanish level quiz to assess where you are before your trip.