How many conversations in Spanish have you had in the last 10 days?… If you love learning this language, but you’re not so good at socializing, then you may be wondering how to start a Spanish conversation.
When I learned English, I faced this same problem, especially because I’m a shy person, and I was worried about being awkward.
To be honest, talking to strangers is just not my thing, plus, doing it in a foreign language will cause me lots of anxieties.
However, today, I have a few suggestions for you to start conversations without sounding stupid, weird, or awkward.
What you’re about to read helped me practice my English and left me with a bunch of good friends, which is way better than just using people for the sake of practicing your language skills.
Also, I’ll share some phrases across this article that may work for you as triggers to start conversations in Spanish, so make sure you take notes because you’ll need these phrases if you want to meet Spanish native speakers.
Build A Foundation At Home
If you keep thinking about how to start a Spanish conversation with a stranger, that means that you need to work on your social skills, so why don’t you start practicing at home, with your family?
The most important thing when you want to have conversations with people is to show interest in them.
Talk with your relatives about their jobs, their days, their lives, show interest in them.
Are you reading a book? Share some good points of what you are reading with your wife or with your mother, even if it’s in your native language.
What we want you to do is to develop this capacity to interact with other people.
Get away from your phone and start interacting with people in real life. The best place to start doing this is with your immediate family.
Did you watch the news this morning? Have a little chat with your Father about what you heated from them.
At the same time, while you’re home, you have an opportunity to work and train on your listening skills.
Listen to stories in Spanish and try to tell them in your own words. This will help you train the speaking skills that will prepare you for conversations with strangers in Spanish.
By the way, before you go and approach someone to talk Spanish with, be aware of the following rules:
3 Golden Rules For A Successful Conversation In Spanish
I am sure that if you’re talking to a friend, then you probably may be a little more spontaneous and less formal than if you’re talking to a stranger.
Of course, I’m not saying that you have to be a super fancy and formal gentleman or lady, but you should mind your manners when meeting native speakers, and show some respect for the people whom you talk to.
If you want to talk to strangers, and especially to native speakers then you need to have these three rules in mind:
- Be kind and friendly
- Show genuine interest
- Be a good listener
In other words, use kind greetings in Spanish, and remember to always say “Por favor”, and “gracias”.
Do you live in a building where Spanish speakers live? Be kind, and say:
- Buenos días (Good morning)
- Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
- Hola, ¿Cómo está? (Hello, how are you?)
If you’re friendly at least for a couple of seconds, as you meet your neighbors on a hurried morning, at some point, a good conversation will come.
And, when that happens, don’t just talk about yourself, nobody likes to be around arrogant and self-centered people.
Instead of that, observe your neighbor, notice how they’re dressed, where they’re at, what they’re doing, and their facial expressions.
Are they watching a soccer game in a restaurant? Then approach someone and ask.
- ¿Quién está jugando?” (who’s playing)
- ¿Cómo va el partido?” (What’s the score right now?)
Listening to what others have to share with you, pay attention to what they say, and then reply.
How to start a Spanish conversation: 7 ideas to help you make friends.
You can use any excuse to trigger a conversation, from a kind comment about the weather to a question about where to find the bathroom, almost anything can be used to start conversations with Latin-Americans.
However, I know that “preparing yourself for a spontaneous conversation” might feel a little weird, and because of that, I want to give you some ideas for starting your next Spanish conversation:
1- Offer help to someone who needs it
Yes, this is the classic help you may offer to an old lady who’s struggling to cross the street. If she speaks Spanish, that’s a perfect opportunity to have a small chat.
Or, what if you see someone trying to carry a heavy table or the bags with the groceries to his/her house. cCould you offer some help?
I’m sure you could do it after saying:
- ¿Le ayudo? (Want me to help you?
- ¿Puedo ayudarlo (or ayudarla)? (Can I help you?)
- Déjeme ayudarle (Let me help you)
2- Ask for help in Spanish
What if it’s you, the one who needs help, and you hear people speaking Spanish around you?
Perhaps while traveling through South America there comes a moment in which you need someone to give you a hand to get to someplace or to borrow a pen to fill up some form.
Instead of going with the classic “¿habla inglés?”, or the shy: “do you speak English?”, go ahead and start the conversation in Spanish.
Say something like:
- Disculpe, ¿le puedo pedir un favor? (Excuse me, can I ask you a favor?)
- Disculpe, ¿puede prestarme un lapicero? (Excuse me, can I borrow a pen?)
- Perdón, ¿dónde encuentro esta dirección? (Excuse me, where can I find this address?)
- Disculpe, ¿Sabe como puedo llegar a …. (specific location)? (Excuse me, do you know how I can get to..)
3- Ask the other person’s opinion in a friendly way
You don’t need to be in the middle of a conversation to ask someone’s opinion.
If you’re surrounded by native speakers in a place like Guatapé, Colombia, or if you see a couple of Mexican fellows in that beautiful cenote that you planned to go for a holiday, then you might politely tell them:
- Este lugar es hermoso, ¿no? (This place is beautiful, isn’t it?)
- Siempre quise visitar este lugar, ¿es su primera vez aquí? (I always wanted to visit this place, is this your first time here?)
Now, what if you’re at a social meeting and you realize that there are a couple of people who speak Spanish?
As I said in the 3 golden rules for a successful conversation subtitle, observe people, try to notice what they like, smile, and be kind to them.
A friendly question might trigger a nice conversation, for example:
- Me gusta su camiseta, ¿donde la consiguió? (I like your t-shirt, where did you get it?)
- Qué bonitos zapatos, ¿son cómodos? (Nice shoes, are they comfortable?)
- No puedo creer lo sabroso que está este cóctel, ¿a usted le gustó? (I can’t believe how tasty this cocktail is, did you like it?)
Another option would be if you go to Mexico and visit a taco restaurant, and the waiter just asks what you wanted to order.
Instead of going for the same product that reminds you of Taco Bell’s flavor, have an open mind, and ask for the waiter’s opinion. Say something like:
- ¿Qué recomienda usted? (What do you recommend?)
- ¿Por qué lo recomienda? (Why do you recommend it?)
Who knows? perhaps the waiter has a better taste for tacos than you do.
4- Make a positive comment or observation
Latinos love to hear foreign people saying nice things about their countries, and if you praise their customs or foods, it’s bound to happen that you’ll start a little chat that might lead you to experience the new culture to the fullest.
I talk as a Colombian, we love to hear people from other countries making comments like:
- Me encanta Colombia, la gente siempre es muy amable (I love Colombia, people is always very kind).
- En este lugar hacen muy buen café. (They make very good coffee in this place)
- Me gustó mucho la aguapanela de colombia, ¿la ha probado? (I liked a lot the aguapanela from Colombia)
What if you’re on a plane and you realize that the person next to you speaks Spanish and is reading a newspaper? you may comment like:
- ¿Vio las noticias sobre… (a specific event)? (Did you see the news about…)
And, if you notice that he/she likes sports or is interested in sports you may say:
- ¿Vio el partido de fútbol de anoche? El Real Madrid jugó muy bien. (Did you see the game last night? Real Madrid played really well.
Or, perhaps you noticed that the staff of the airline speak Spanish, and you want to take advantage of the 5-minute break the flight attendant has, you could smile and say:
- ¿Te gusta trabajar aquí? (do you like to work here?)
- ¿Hace cuánto trabaja aquí? (How long ago do you work here?)
- ¿No le da miedo volar? (Aren’t you afraid of flying?)
5- Compliment someone without being uncomfortable
Compliments may be a great resource to start a Spanish conversation, but you have to be careful about how and when you do it.
You need to choose your words correctly, especially if you’re one of those gentlemen who like to praise every beautiful woman you see.
Please, try to be a little more discreet, and avoid being so direct with them. Instead of telling “hermosa mujer, eres bella” to the first pretty girl you see, make an indirect comment like:
- Qué bonito vestido. (Nice dress)
- Me encanta tu cabello. (I love your hair)
Just don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. Instead of that, be positive and upbuilding, like when you meet someone who just gave a speech you heard in Spanish, then you may say:
- Me gustó mucho su presentación (I liked your talked)
Or if you’re in a business meeting, and you want to socialize with someone afterward, you may say:
- ¿Cómo le pareció la reunión? (What do you think about the meeting?)
6- Show people that you care about them
The key to any relationship is interest.
You can’t expect friends to come into your life if you’re ignoring your Spanish-speaking neighbors all the time.
You won’t ever be in a relationship with that Spanish-speaking person that you are so attracted to if you just stare at him/her and then walk away.
Show genuine interest in people, tell them:
- ¿Cómo está? (How are you?)
- ¿Cómo va el trabajo? (How’s work?)
- ¿Se ha sentido bien en el edificio? (Have you fet comfortable in the building?)
What if you hear that one of your Spanish-speaking neighbors was sick recently, and all of a sudden you see him in the elevator?
Will you just say “buenas tardes”, as usual?
Even though he doesn’t know that you know he was sick, show some interest in his health. Say something like:
- Escuché que estaba enfermo, ¿Cómo siguió? (I heard you wer sick, are you better now?)
- ¿Cómo está su familia? (How’s your family?)
7- The classic and most reliable icebreaker: The weather
No matter what, no matter when, no matter who, the weather is always a good topic to break the ice in any language.
If it’s raining, then you may throw a quick comment like:
- ¡Qué llovedera! (It’s raining a lot!)
- Hace tiempo que no llovía tanto. (It’s been a long time since it was raining so much)
If it’s sunny, you might say:
- ¡Qué día tan bonito! ¿no le parece? (Such a beautiful day, don’t you think?)
- Es mejor cuidarse del sol. (Taking care of the sun is better)
A simple question might also do the trick:
- ¿Usted cree que llueve hoy? (will it rain today?)
If you’re not sure about how to start a Spanish conversation, I would say the weather is the most simple and easy way to approach someone.
6 Suggestions to Keep The Conversation Going
Let’s say that you just broke the ice with one of the examples I gave you above, or perhaps a friendly person went up to you and started a conversation.
Now what? What can you say so this moment doesn’t become an uncomfortable silence with someone staring at you.
Well, if you feel a little anxious when you’re around people, and especially anxious when you’re having a Spanish conversation then these suggestions are a must for you:
1- Keep showing interest
Nobody likes a fake person, so if you show interest to begin a conversation, keep showing the other person that you care about him/her.
If she/he talks about something that you find boring, ask questions about it, perhaps you’ll find something interesting at some point in the conversation.
However, if the other person was the one who wanted to talk, then be grateful for the interest that he/she is showing in you. To do that, simply ask questions like:
- ¿Por qué? (Why?)
- ¿Dónde? (Where?)
- ¿Desde cuándo? (Since when?)
- ¿Hata cuándo? (Until when?)
- ¿Cómo? (How?)
- ¿Quién? (Who?)
- ¿Cuántos? (How many?)
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? (How much is it?)
I can’t give you a list of questions to use during the conversation because it could be about anything, but the trick is to show interest in using questions.
2- Ask the other person’s opinion
Yes, you could break the ice this way too, but if you value the opinion of the person, you’re going to want to know more about why she/he thinks this way.
Latin Americans usually enjoy a good conversation, and they love sharing what they think on topics they care about.
Don’t hesitate, to use phrases like:
- ¿Qué opina de…? (What do you think about…?)
- ¿Qué piensa de…?(What do you think about…?)
- ¿Cómo vio…? (Did you see…?)
- ¿Cómo le parece…?(What do you think about…?)
- ¿Qué cree de…? (What do you believe about…?
3- Don’t interrupt the other person
A good communicator is someone who knows how to listen, but if you’re a person who’s focused on just sharing what you think, people will get bored of you real soon.
Let the other person talk, show people that you value their thoughts, and you’ll probably make friends faster than you think.
Let it be obvious to the other person that you’re listening and paying attention to what she/he is saying.
To do this, you may say:
- ¿Sí? (yeah?)
- ¿En serio? (Seriously?)
- ¿De verdad? (Really?)
- Ahh (Ohh)
- Mmmhmm (Mmmhmm)
4- Have an open mind
When you talk to foreigners, you have to remember that they come from a very different background than yours.
Culture might be a roadblock for you to have Spanish conversations because it may make people:
The Spanish-speaking world is huge, and you need to know that anything can be said or done when talking to someone.
Because of that, when you meet someone for the first time, be patient and avoid criticism at all costs.
If a person says something that bothers you or sounds offending, then try to respond with a sense of humor.
Likely, they don’t want to offend you. It probably feels uncomfortable because of a cultural difference between you and the other person
Just try to relax and avoid taking things to heart.
5- Keep talking Spanish
No matter what, don’t reply to anything in English or your mother language.
Spanish native speakers are a little stubborn in this matter because if you meet someone who knows a little English, then he’s going to try to force the conversation to be in English.
They’re just on the hunt for an opportunity to practice their English all the time, and if you’re an English native speaker, you’ll be their prey.
Don’t give in, but don’t be mean or rude to them. Just be kind and say something like:
- ¿Podemos hablar mejor en español? (Can we talk in Spanish?)
- ¿Puedes hablar en español, porfavor? (Can you speak Spanish, please?)
Be patient with people, and remember that just as you are wondering how to start a Spanish conversation, they’re doing the same thing with English, and you could be seen as the perfect opportunity. 😅
6- Be patient, and don’t force people
What if the other person doesn’t seem like she/he wants to talk?
Should you insist on making questions and showing interest?
No, just be polite and try to approach them at another time.
Sometimes, people need to see you and talk to you quickly several times, before they open themselves for a good conversation.
Some cities in the Spanish-speaking world are really dangerous, and because of that, some people might be a little afraid of talking to strangers.
Just, relax, and understand that the problem isn’t you, they have nothing against you.
When the conversation goes well, the last thing you need to do is to get the contact information of the other person, because think about it…
If this person was willing and happy to have a Spanish conversation with you today, it’s very likely that another conversation may happen, so don’t be afraid to say:
- Oye, ¿tienes whatsapp? Quizás podríamos seguir hablando después. (Hey, do you have whatsapp? Perhaps we could keep talking later)
- ¿Estás en … (social media like facebook, Instagram, etc)? (Are you on…)
- ¿Te vas a quedar mucho tiempo aquí? Quizás podemos hablar luego. (Are you staying here for a long time? May be we could talk later)
If your new friend enjoyed the conversation with you, I’m sure that you guys will keep in touch, and you’ll have more opportunities to keep practicing some Spanish with that person.
To sum up, I can say that if you want to have a good Spanish conversation on your next trip to Latinamerica or with a native speaker you want to meet, the most important thing you need to work on is your interest in people.
Of course, first, you need to improve your socialization skills at home, as well as your listening abilities.
Practice with your family and use my stories to improve your listening skills.
Then, you may use one of the sentences I shared with you at the beginning of this article. And if you want to keep the conversation going:
- Show interest in people
- Sense of humor
- An opened mind
You’ll need all of those qualities if you want to have successful Spanish conversations and make friends.
And talking about friends… why don’t you share your thoughts with me in Spanish?
Is there something you think you could do better to improve your Spanish conversations?
Leave your answer in the comments below.