Great Conversational Spanish Chit-Chat topics for Immersion

Great Conversational Spanish Chit Chat Topics


Small talk is a big deal! Conversational Spanish topics that are sure to get people talking.

Don’t let yourself be at a loss for words when you’re on Spanish Immersion!

You likely selected a program with host family lodging because you recognize the linguistic and cultural value of interacting with people in their home – and you really want to learn all you can while you’re on immersion. It’s important to realize that healthy chit-chat with your host family actually builds confianza– this idea of trust that engenders peoples’ willingness to open up to you, create a deeper friendship, and discuss the things that are dear to them. So…. you’re headed back to your host family and you’re not quite sure what else there is to talk about. You feel like you’ve covered the basics and you’re stuck; you need help avoiding the uncomfortable silence.

What are some good conversational Spanish topics that are sure to get the Spanish conversation rolling? Here are a few topics to consider adding to your conversational Spanish repertoire:

Conversational Spanish topics for adults:

  • The weather: Everyone likes to talk about the weather, it’s such an easy topic to get the words flowing. Actually, this is a really practical conversation topic for you – you probably want to ask a few questions about what sort of weather you can expect for the day. That will help you know if you need to take your hat, sunscreen, umbrella, jacket, etc. On our Spanish immersion programs in Costa Rica, the weather is pretty dynamic. In the morning it can be hot and humid and then before you know it you can walk out of a store or restaurant to lightening and thunder!
  • Sports: If you’re on Spanish immersion, the only real conversational Spanish vocabulary you probably need is soccer terms. Everyone loves soccer and people are usually pretty fanatical about their favorite team. As I write this post, Costa Rica’s team in the 2014 World cup made it much further than anyone expected, and the country is crazy for fútbol and super proud of la Sele (the “Select” team).
  • Current (or Past) National Events: Most people have an opinion about newsworthy items in their country. This could be a recent presidential election, some international notoriety, a sports accomplishment, strikes, whatever. And if people don’t have an opinion, they’ll certainly be willing to tell you why they don’t care about that particular subject. So, take a look at the latest headlines of the newspapers that you see around and ask your host family about it!
  • Weekend Plans: Your plans for the coming weekend are a great conversational topic – and usually a good idea to run by your host family. They will likely have some tips for you if you have to coordinate logistics, and they may have some suggestions for certain places to go and things to see at your destination. Even if you don’t plan to travel at all on the weekend, asking your family about their fin de semana will help you make sure you don’t miss any important family events or special outings.
  • Nice Places to Visit: You’re traveling to a foreign country and the assumption is that you’re going to do a little sight-seeing as well. Your host family is a great resource for you, and if they’ve done any traveling they’ll be glad to share their favorite spots with you. Most people brave enough to do a Spanish immersion program want to visit the places that the locals visit – so start up a conversation with your family about their favorite spots to visit!The casado, a combination of rice, beans, meat, salad and fried plantains
  • Cooking: Apart from keeping you safe and providing you a comfortable place to call “home” while you’re away, one of your host family’s primary responsibilities is to feed you a couple times a day. This is the perfect conversational Spanish topic, and it might even get you working alongside your host mom! Ask her how you can help and get her talking about the ingredients, the tools in the kitchen, and how it all comes together!
  • 20 Years ago: When you’re talking to adults (and you have enough Spanish to work the past tenses), asking them about what life was like 20 years ago is a perfect conversational topic. Things change so much that it will be impossible to not get some mileage out of this topic with your host family. You’ll probably hear some imperfect tenses when they’re talking about what things “used to be” like and then some preterit to describe what change happened.

Conversational Topics for Children: ***Disclaimer*** – Most children don’t make for great conversationalists – especially with people they don’t know. I have 3 children, and sometimes I look at them and wonder how bouncing, smiling, draping themselves over me like a wet towel, or just silently smiling are appropriate responses to an adult trying to start up a conversation with them – but they’re kids. So, if my children get the chance to travel with you, you may or may not have success with any of the topics below :-). If you can find a child who will talk to you, try these topics on them:

  • Best & Worst Parts of School: Kid’s lives are dominated by school – this is their reality and they might be willing to talk about their favorite subject (materia) or their least favorite and why. Who knows, maybe you can help with homework!
  • Favorites: Talking about kids’ favorite foods, sports, tv shows, apps, video games, movies, etc. is a perfect recipe for a 1 or 2 word answer; but if you add the question ¿Por qué le gusta tanto? you might get a few more sentences in the exchange.

In all honesty, trying to build your conversational Spanish with children is probably a limited venture if you approach it topically. Your best bet to get kids talking is to play with them. As soon as you enter their physical sport or imaginative world, you’ll be best buddies and you’ll have tons of Spanish conversation!

There are some Conversational Spanish topics you’ll want to avoid until you’ve built up some confianza with your host family.

It’s not that people don’t talk about these things, it just takes getting to know people a little more before you’ll really be able to get anywhere with the topic. Work the topics above as much as you can, and after a few weeks you may be able to broach these Spanish conversational topics below:

  • Religion: Most people are fine talking about religion on a surface level, especially in Latin American countries where the church is such a central part of every town and daily life. But avoid getting too personal about faith and religion (unless your host family has initiated it) until you’re pretty tight with your family.
  • Politics: This topic is pretty analogous to religion. Most people are happy to complain about something when it comes to politics, but try to hold back on your ardent political values, and definitely avoid pinning anyone down to taking a particular stance on issues – it usually makes for bad conversation :).
  • Money: Money is one of those topics that is partially okay to talk about but usually better to not address. You should know that people in Latin America probably see you as wealthy (regardless of your means) simply by virtue of being from the United States. After all, you’ve traveled all this way to be staying in their country and you have the time away from work to do so. You may not think you’re “rich” – and you may not be – but these things are relative, and it’s probably true that you have more opportunities than the average person in your host family. Anyway, it would be fine for you to talk about money in the context of how much something costs – like almost complaining about how expensive things are. But, you probably shouldn’t talk about how “cheap” or “inexpensive” you perceive things to be. That’s something that will send subtle clues to your host family about your position/means relative to theirs.
  • Work: As North Americans we tend to define ourselves by our profession (or at least identify very closely). Within the first minute or two of meeting a person someone has likely asked the question: “What do you do”? Many of us have the luxury of turning our passions into careers and earning a living as we pursue doing what we love. This is an inherent blessing of living in the United States,  but it’s wise to remember that most people across the world work to live. There is often little connection between passion and profession. So, while you might find work/profession a stimulating conversation, your host family in Latin America may not relate at all to the idea that anyone would want to talk about  their work outside of work.
  • Personal relationship and age questions across sexes: Many Latin American countries have an indirect method of communication. This is a topic for another blog post, but suffice it to say that if you ask about personal relationships across the sexes, you may be perceived as indirectly making a pass at someone or working up to asking them out. This goes the same for asking about someone else’s age – it may be perceived as you wanting to know if they’re in your range of acceptable “date-ability”. So, unless you’ve built up some confianza with this person of the opposite sex, you might want to avoid “How old are you?” and “Do you have a boyfriend?”.

Small talk between people in Latin America is a great way to establish the foundation for deep relationships. Yes it takes getting over your discomfort with conversational Spanish, but you’ll be surprised at how much your conversational Spanish skills increase when you make the intentional effort to practice speaking in Spanish. The additional benefit, of course, is the connection you establish with other people in your social circle while traveling.

Remember, when you keep talking people know what you’re thinking – and that puts them at ease. If you stay quiet, they won’t know what you’re thinking and will probably invent some perspectives about who you are and what you think. While you’re on Spanish immersion you want to guarantee that you’re getting the most out of it as possible – so keep talking and before you know it  you’ll be a great Spanish conversationalist!

81 thoughts on “Great Conversational Spanish Chit Chat Topics”

  1. I was made aware of Americans tendency to ask about someone’s work a couple years ago. Since then I’ve tried to be more conscious of not using that as a go-to for conversation but it is truly challenging after a lifetime habit of it! I have decided instead to focus–much as it recommends with kids–on asking people what they like and why. I love to see others become passionate about fun aspects of their lives.

  2. I thought the list was super similar to what I would talk about with people in America except when I saw your note about work! You are right that in America so many people’s careers are a big part of themselves, so it usually is a topic that comes up quick.

  3. Andrew Kingston

    Va a estar super dificil a no olvidar a no hablar des professions. Es una topica que la mayoria de Estado Unidienses preguntan immediamente.

  4. That was an interesting point at the end about people guessing what you are thinking if you don’t speak frequently or often.

  5. Joseph Anthony Gilardi

    Super great list will be using the soccer teams and the cooking convo started for sure. Also super helpful about work and age questions I would have never realized what I was implying.

  6. I really appreciate the warning about talking about work! I feel like work is such an important part of my life that when I catch up with friends, we always end up talking about our work for a large chunk of the conversation. Will make sure to be careful with that.

  7. Great tips and guidelines for conversation, especially the topics to avoid. Also like the suggestion about requesting advice as being a good conversational foundation and the reverse about offering to help the host family with cooking or other things. Generally i think people do like to help other people, so that is definitely ‘common cultural ground.’

  8. It is very interesting and good to know that we probably shouldn’t start by talking about work as small talk. I think sometimes we talk too much about work, especially in the medical field, so it will be good to focus on getting to know people outside of their work first.

  9. Sharise Cunningham

    Logical lists, especially things to avoid. Like the “reverse psychology” tip re: how expensive things are.


    Good to know what NOT to talk about. Do our host families know what our professions are, just by default of being on this trip? I would assume so. I will make a list of other questions for conversation starters. Thank you!

  11. This is really helpful because I definitely wouldn’t have known that it’s considered hitting on someone to ask for their age. I’m also ridiculously into politics, so now I know that’s not something I should bring up right away, if ever.

  12. audrey.blanchard

    Thank you! I feel more prepared now because before I had no idea what I would start a conversation with my host family about.

  13. Maggie Blanchard

    Thanks for the tips! Now I have some ideas for what categories of vocabulary I should try to familiarize myself with more before my trip to Costa Rica.

  14. Alexandra Jones

    I was worried about small talk with my host family, so these tips have helped a lot! I will do some more research and write down some conversation starters I think I will use in Costa Rica.

  15. Conversation starters- Check
    Remembering the worlds I prepped for in the moment of the conversation… That is the question.

  16. caitlin.banks

    These topics are very helpful for knowing what to talk to about, and I am excited to talk about some of these since I already know a few phrases to converse about within these topics.

  17. Gloria Ballard

    Thank you for these conversation starters. It’s especially good to know what to avoid so as not to get tangled up in a conversation where you can’t express your thoughts clearly!

  18. Mary Tommie Williams

    Thank you for the topics. I will do a bit of research on each and practices some Spanish phrases on the topics.

  19. Thank you so much for the conversation topic suggestions. These are helpful to know where to start, and I also really appreciated the section about how it is better to avoid talking about work at the beginning as this is something I could have seen myself asking without thinking about how it could create discomfort in a conversation. Thanks!

  20. I absolutely love the idea of helping my host mom cook in the kitchen while conversing in Spanish! I think this is such a great way to practice my conversational Spanish while also being helpful to my host family and bonding with my host mom.

  21. Nathan Batayte

    I am a little bit nervous that I have to keep talking because I am a lot of times a pretty quiet person.

  22. Marissa Werchan

    I didn’t realize that asking about profession was a private topic, and I am glad I read this article! I find myself asking my patients what they do for work all the time, because it usually reveals what they are passionate about creating more dialogue .

  23. Lisa McClintock

    Rethinking my request to be in a family with small children now. When I was an exchange student in high school, my host siblings were 3 & 8 years old. I found it forced me to communicate because they were naturally inquisitive and talkative but that may not be the case everywhere. The bottom line is that it’s really up to me.

  24. Bridgette Strange

    Thank you for the tips on using the “20 years ago” topic, I really like that! I used something similar when I travelled to Spain and my Spanish mom was able to describe and show me pictures of the country before, during and after the Franco years.
    I also like the tip of how to avoid making unintentional advances to the opposite sex. I know the can vary greatly among different countries.

  25. Kathleen VanEepoel

    These are very helpful and I will be definitely practicing the vocabulary for all these topics! Getting real!!!!

  26. Lucas Armendariz

    Small talk and quick conversation with kids is gonna be easy peasy because I talk to my spanish friends in spanish a lot but i probably need to work on my conversational skills with adults.

  27. I’m horrible at small talk and even worse at small talk in Spanish. I’m hopeful that I can cook with my host family and learn some new recipes.

  28. Benjamin Kingston

    Thanks! This is very helpful. As a soccer player who follows the sport quite closely, I think that will be a great conversation starter for me

  29. Brittan Sutphin

    I am a novice Spanish speaker so I appreciated the tip on delaying the conversation about work with my host family until I’ve become more proficient.

  30. debmannhebert

    I’m really gala this article was included because I was nervous about what to talk about. Thank you !

  31. I love kids and I’m hoping by playing with them I can have more opportunities to practice my Spanish with them. Especially since it seems less intimidating to practice with kids than with adults.

  32. Hadley Meehan

    These are very helpful and they will definitely help me when i am trying to start conversations!

  33. these are great conversation starters that could really help me make new friends and such. they’ll be great to use with my host family as well.

  34. Gabriella Ercolino

    I will definitely keep these conversation starters in mind- it’s very helpful to know what is appropriate to say and what isn’t always a good idea

  35. These conversational topics will be helpful for me because it is hard for me to start up conversations with people especially if I do not know them.

  36. I really enjoyed reading this section. The list of conversation topics was really good for me to think about and motivates me to learn a bit more about soccer and read up on Costa Rican national events prior to my trip. I am not a super chatty person to begin with, but these type of conversations are the reason I am doing an immersion program so I am going for chattyness!

  37. Catherine Cobb

    These conversation starters are very helpful and will be very useful in my host family as well as at school.

  38. carleenobrien

    Thanks for the conversation starters because that it is something that I struggle with. I’m hoping to use the cooking one and maybe bring back a new recipe or two to try at home.

  39. Carly Woolman

    I like the idea of asking about nice places to visit in the country and what it was like 20 years ago. It could be a great conversation starting to discuss similarities and maybe some differences between Costa Rica an where I am from.

  40. I am excited to use these tips to build relationships with my host family and confidence in my speaking ability.

  41. I don’t tend to be chatty and like to talk about work way too much. One thing that has worked for me is to ask what a person does for fun on the weekend or what they like to do with leisure time. The only problem for me in some settings is that the third world has little experience with leisure.

  42. This list is great because I feel that speaking in Spanish even about such small talk topics will only help advance my confidence in speaking the language. I think that many people can tell that I am not comfortable in speaking Spanish and I find that they try to help me communicate which is extremely helpful!

  43. The list is helpful because I don’t “chit chat” well, even in English. Maybe it will help me in both languages!

  44. Pingback: 10 Bulletproof tips to maximize language growth on any travel...

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