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Tips & Phrases to Navigate Spanish Conversations

Small talk can be light-hearted and easy or dreadfully awkward. No matter what, though, one thing is for certain—it’s unavoidable. And now, you’re learning Spanish. This means you’ll have to make small talk—in Spanish. Ready for some Spanish conversations? Cue the nerves! 

How do you go about doing this? How do you break the ice and take the first step to starting a conversation in Spanish?

It might seem a little overwhelming, but don’t fret. This article is dedicated to helping you do just that.

1 . Conversation basics- How to make small talk interesting

There are a few, universal ingredients to “good” small-talk. These will be the same in Spanish and in English. Of course, you’ll need to take cultural elements into account as you dive into conversations. But, as a foundation, remember:

2. Do’s and Dont’s in Spanish Conversations

While small-talk is a universal thing, topics considered appropriate for small-talk are not. In English, we don’t usually consider someone’s marital status to be fair game for casual conversation. But in Spain, it’s not uncommon that this question comes up. Politics may be a hot-topic in the US, but it’s one that almost everyone seems to talk about constantly. In Spain, this topic is avoided like the plague!

Here’s a quick guide to some of the basics do’s and don’ts when making small talk in Spanish:

Do

Ah, ¿sí?Oh, yeah?
ValeOkay
¿En serio?Really?
YaYeah
¡Vaya!Wow!
Madre míaMy goodness

If you’re still not sure what is safe to talk about with a Spaniard (aside from the basics), here’s a list of topics that are always sure to please:

3. Introductions and Greetings

Introducing yourself in Spanish isn’t overly complicated, but it does require a mini lesson of its own. For a quick summary on how to introduce yourself in Spanish, check out this article HERE.

4. Personal information

Giving and asking for personal information is an integral part of conversing with someone new. This doesn’t mean you have to ask about very personal things, but things that are unique about the individual you’re talking to. Below you’ll find some examples of questions you might ask or be asked and how to answer them.

Note: These are given using both the “tú” (informal) and “usted” (formal) options. Depending on who you’re speaking to and the situation you’re in, you may need to use one or the other. For example, in Spain, the “tú” form is used in most situations, whereas in certain Latin American countries the “usted” form is always used with strangers.

SpanishEnglish
¿Cómo te llamas? (Informal)
¿Cómo se llama? (formal)
What’s your name?
Me llamo…/ Mi nombre es…My name is…
¿Cómo estás? (informal)
¿Cómo está? (formal)
How are you?
Estoy bien, gracias.I’m fine, thank you.
¿Cuántos años tienes? (informal)
¿Cuántos años tiene? (formal)
How old are you?
Tengo X años.I am X years old.
¿De dónde eres?
¿De dónde es?
Where are you from?
Soy de España.I’m from Spain.
Soy de los Estados Unidos.I’m from the United States.
Soy de la República Dominicana.I’m from the Dominican Republic.
Soy de México.I’m from Mexico.
¿Dónde vives? (informal)
¿Dónde vive? (formal)
Where do you live?
Vivo en Madrid.I live in Madrid.
Vivo en Buenos Aires.I live in Buenos Aires.
¿Cuál es tu número de teléfono? (informal)
¿Cuál es su número de teléfono? (formal)
What is your phone number?
Mi número de teléfono es…My phone number is…
¿Estás casado/a? (informal)
¿Está casado/a? (formal)
Are you married.
Sí, estoy casado/a.Yes, I’m married.
No, no estoy casado/a.No, I’m not married.
Estoy soltero/a.I’m single.
¿Tienes hermanos? (informal)
¿Tiene hermanos? (formal)
Do you have any siblings?
Sí, tengo dos hermanos y una hermana.Yes, I have two brothers and one sister.
Sí, tengo un hermano.Yes, I have one brother.
No, soy hijo/a única.No, I’m an only child.
No, no tengo hermanos.No, I don’t have siblings.
¿A qué te dedicas? (informal)
¿A qué se dedica? (formal)
What do you do for a living?
Soy médico/a.I’m a doctor.
Soy estudiante.I’m a student
Soy abogado/a.I’m a lawyer.
Soy dentista.*I’m a dentist.
Soy profesor/aI’m a teacher.

*Some professions, such as dentista, periodista, electricista (the ones that end in ista) will be the same in their masculine and feminine forms.

5. Common questions and answers

There are a whole slew of other questions you can ask or expect to be asked that don’t deal directly with your personal life. These are things like your hobbies or interests. For some of the most common questions and how to answer them, check out the table below.

Note: Again, questions will be given in both the formal and informal ways.

EnglishSpanish
¿Cuál es tu deporte preferido? (informal)
¿Cuál es su deporte preferido? (formal)
What is your favorite sport?
¿Te gustan los deportes? (informal)
¿Le gustan los deportes? (formal)
Do you like sports?
¿Practicas algún deporte? (informal)
¿Practica algún deporte? (formal)
Do you do any sports?
Me gusta jugar a…I like to play…
Me gusta ver…I like to watch…
Practico…I play…
Mi deporte preferido es…My favorite sport is…
¿Cuáles son tus pasatiempos? (informal)
¿Cuáles son sus pasatiempos? (formal)
What are your pastimes?
¿Tienes un hobby? (informal)
¿Tiene un hobby? (formal)
Do you have a hobby?
Me gusta…I like…
Me gusta cocinar.I like to cook.
Me gusta leer.I like to read.
Me gusta salir con amigos.I like to go out with friends.
En mi tiempo libre…In my free time…
Voy al cine.I go to see movies.
Paso tiempo con mis amigos.I spend time with my friends.
¿Tienes una mascota? (informal)
¿Tiene una mascota? (formal)
Do you have a pet?
Sí, tengo un gato.Yes, I have a cat.
Sí, tengo un perro.Yes, I have a dog.
No, no tengo una mascota.No, I don’t have a pet.
¿Te gusta la música? (informal)
¿Le gusta la música? (formal)
Do you like music?
Sí, me gusta el jazz.Yes, I like jazz.
Sí, me gusta el rock.Yes, I like rock.
Sí, me gusta el hip-hop.Yes, I like hip-hop.
No, no me gusta la música.No, I don’t like music.
¿Tocas algún instrumento? (informal)
¿Toca algún instrumento? (formal)
Do you play an instrument?
Sí, toco el piano.Yes, I play the piano.
Sí, toco la guitarra.Yes, I play the guitar.
Sí, toco la batería.Yes, I play the drums.
No, no toco ningún instrumento.No, I don’t play an instrument.
¿Qué tipo de películas te gusta? (informal)
¿Qué tipo de películas le gusta? (formal)
What type of movies do you like?
Prefiero las películas románticas.I prefer romance movies.
Me gustan las películas de miedo/ terror.I like horror movies.
Me gustan las películas de risa/ comedia.I like funny/ comedy movies.

Conclusion

This has just been a quick guide to how to navigate the surprisingly complicated world of small-talk. What do you think? Do you have any experiences making small-talk in Spanish that you want to share? Lessons you learned? Mistakes or taboos to avoid? We’d love to hear your input!

mydailyspanish.com

7 English Small Talk Topics for Starting Friendly Conversations

You’re at a party or a lunch, and everyone is off talking to someone else.

You’re left standing next to one person who you don’t know.

Sure, you want to talk to them, but you have no idea what to say.

We’ve all been there.

The silence (time when there’s no sound) you get when two people don’t have anything to say is called an awkward silence. Awkward means uncomfortable and embarrassing.

To avoid these awkward silences, you need to know how to make small talk in English.

Small talk is the kind of conversation you make when you want to talk to someone but neither of you wants to get into a very deep or complicated conversation. It’s “small” because you talk about unimportant things, in a way that fills up silences and makes you both feel more comfortable and friendly with each other.

The more you practice small talk, the easier it will become.

Until you’re comfortable making your own small talk, you can start out by learning a few excellent topics for making small talk that will leave you sounding and feeling comfortable and confident.
 

 

Why Making Small Talk Is a Big Deal

There’s nothing “small” about small talk.

Being able to hold a conversation about something simple like the weather might seem like it’s not important, but it’s a key skill to have if you’re learning a language. Think about how many times you make small talk in your native language during the day.

Making small talk can help you:

  • Avoid awkward silences
  • Easily get to know someone new
  • Seem friendlier
  • Become closer with acquaintances and coworkers
  • Sound more like a native speaker

You can make small talk pretty much any time you and one (or a few) other people are gathered in one location, aren’t busy and aren’t already talking about something. You can make small talk at a party, before a work meeting or while waiting for your food to microwave in the office.

You can ask someone how his morning was while you’re together on the elevator, or comment on the weather as you’re waiting for the bus.

Body Language Is Also a Language

Did you think you were only learning to speak English here? Your body says almost as much as your mouth when you speak English—and so do the bodies of other people.

For example, if you’re waiting in line to pay for something at the store, and the person in front of you is turned away from you, tapping their foot impatiently and glancing at their phone all the time, they probably don’t want to talk to you. If, on the other hand, the person in front of you turns around, catches your eye and smiles, you can try starting a small conversation.

You can make yourself more approachable by doing small things that will make a big difference. If you’re trying to make small talk, or want to show that you’re interested in a conversation, don’t cross your arms or your legs. Instead, make eye contact and smile!

Small Talk for Every Occasion

Some topics are universal, meaning you can use them anywhere and with anyone. Others are better suited for specific situations. For example, work-related topics might be better used with coworkers at the office, and hobby-related topics might be better with friends.

Small talk topics are small—that is, they’re not significant or important. Keep it positive, and avoid “heavy” topics, including anything negative or controversial (a topic many people disagree on).

Don’t be too random, and surprise the other person with a strange new topic. Let the conversation happen naturally instead of trying to ask questions like a list. The best small talk is the situational kind, something you observe about your environment and work into a conversation.

For example, you can tell the person you’re on the elevator with that the weather is terrible or ask if he’s looking forward to the weekend (if it’s a Friday), but you probably shouldn’t ask him what his hobbies are—that’s just strange!

To get more comfortable with making small talk, see how it happens in real life with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news, music videos, skits, interviews and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

1. Introductions

Before you can get to know someone, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself.

You can introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know, or to remind someone you’ve met before who might have forgotten you. When you’re introducing yourself, you can add a little bit of information like where you first met, or what you do. You can even use your English learning as a conversation starter.

Examples:

“Good morning! We always have coffee at the same time but we’ve never spoken before. My name is [Your Name].”

“Hello, how are you today? My name is [Your Name]. I’m still learning English so please let me know if I make any mistakes.”

“Hi Angela. You might not remember me but we met at Tom’s Christmas party last year. I’m [Your Name].”

2. Universal Topics

Topics that are universal can be shared by almost anyone.

Things like the weather, current news, sports and entertainment are usually safe conversation starters, especially when you’re speaking to a group—even if one person doesn’t really watch sports, someone else in the group might.

Although these topics are talked about by many, some people might not be fans of sports, or might not follow entertainment news, so if you can, try to match people’s interests to the topic you choose. For example, if you’ve heard them talking about big news stories in the past, you could try to talk about a news story from today.

Examples:

“Did you watch the Oscars last week? I can’t believe Leonardo DiCaprio finally won one!”

“This weather is crazy! It was cold yesterday and today I came in with an open jacket. I hope it stays warm, don’t you?”

“That basketball game yesterday had me glued to my seat. Wasn’t that a great save at the very end?”

3. The Day

If you’re not sure what topic to talk about, or don’t have anything interesting to say, you can just ask someone about their day, or you can talk about yours.

For example, you could ask them:

  • How was your day? / How has your day been so far?
  • How have you been feeling today?
  • What have you been doing today?
  • Has anything exciting happened today?
  • What are you planning for after work?
  • Are you doing anything fun after work?

You can also share information about your day and how you’re doing, but try to keep a balance of talking and listening, so you both get to speak the same amount (and you’re not just talking about yourself the entire time).

Even if the person looks like they’ve been having a bad day, you can make it brighter just by making small talk! Make sure not to ask questions that are too personal, and instead offer some nice words of encouragement.

Examples:

“Hey there. You look like you’re having a rough day. I hope it gets better for you.”

“Good morning! I went camping on Saturday, and of course it rained all day. Was your weekend any better?”

“The day is almost over! Do you have any interesting plans for the evening?”

4. The Workplace

Some conversations are only appropriate in a work environment.

Stay even less personal at work than in more casual places, and avoid gossiping (talking about other people who are not present)! Instead, you can talk about the day, an upcoming party or meeting, or ask about the person’s job.

Examples:

“Hi Tom. How are things going over at the IT department today?”

“Good morning. I’m really looking forward to the party after work today. I hear Pam brought her famous carrot cake!”

“What a busy day. This is the first time I’ve gotten up from my seat all day! Are you busy too?”

5. Observations

Some of the best small talk is about where you and your conversation partner are located.

It’s something you both share, so there’s no worry that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Look around and find something to comment on, or look at your partner and find something nice to compliment them on. Nothing makes people feel better than a genuine compliment!

Examples:

“I love your shoes today, they really pull your outfit together.”

“Did you see? They finally fixed the light in the break room. It’s been broken for almost a month!”

“Hey Pam, your cookies last night were delicious! Thank you for making them for the party.”

6. Common Interests

When you have something similar with your speaking partner, that means you have something to talk about. Find a mutual friend (a friend you both know) or a common interest or hobby, and you’ll have something to talk about.

Keep in mind that English speakers rarely actually say the word “hobby,” so asking “What are your hobbies?” sounds strange and unnatural. Try asking questions instead, based on observations.

Examples:

“My cousin mentioned you last night. I didn’t know you knew her! Where did you meet?”

“I noticed your hat has a Yankees logo. Are you a fan of baseball too?”

“I tried baking cookies like yours last night and they came out terrible. How do you make them so good?”

7. Questions

You might have noticed by now that most of these small talk examples have something in common: They ask questions. A good way to start a conversation is to make a comment, then ask a question. This keeps the conversation from ending on your comment (and making things even more awkward!).

When asking questions, listen as much as you talk, and don’t get too personal with your questions. And remember to keep things positive!

Examples:

“Hey, I heard you were thinking of adopting a new dog. Did you find one?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while: how long have you been working here?”

“Your hair always looks great. What hair products do you use?”

The next time you’re standing with someone and no one is speaking, you know what to do!
 

If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.

Experience English immersion online!

www.fluentu.com

How to Small Talk Successfully with Women

20 Ideas for Making Small Talk with Women

When it comes to talking to women, it seems one of the hardest aspects for men is making small talk.  While most of you can probably make small talk… the question is… can you make small talk fun, playful, and sexy?

Or do you just wind up boring the woman?

Let’s take the time right now to really break down the art of small talk, and really figure how to make small talk exciting and attractive-rather than dull and boring.

Let’s understand:

1.  What type of small talk women find boring

And then

2.  What type of small talk women find fun

With this approach it will help us gain some understanding of the criteria that is most important.  And then I can give you some good small talk tips.

1. What bores women?

A.) Any type of small talk that seems forced or awkward is a really big turn off for women.  Women don’t like awkwardness.  And if a woman senses that you’re shy, nervous, or insecure around you, she is likely not going to invest in the conversation.  And if she isn’t interested in keeping the conversation going… it will make your job much harder.

B.) Women hate “interview style” small talk.  “Interview style” small talk is when you just continually ask a woman a series of questions about her job, school, family, hometown, ect.  This gets boring fast.  This type of small talk is especially boring if she senses that you’re not even listening to her answers.  There is nothing worse than someone who is just asking questions because he can’t think of any other way to keep the conversation going.

C.) One of the worst things you can do during small talk is to let there be a series of uncomfortable silences.  Brief silence from time to time is ok.  But if you hear birds chirping during your conversations with women… chances are she is getting bored.  You must be able to keep a conversation going if you want to make small talk that attracts women.

D.) You also want to avoid small talk topics that could lead to unnecessary ill feelings.  While a little playful “banter” with a woman is fine… Small talk topics like religion or politics might wind up stirring up some ill feelings that could have easily been avoided if you stick to some of the conversation topics we’ll talk about in the next section.

Understanding these issues, you really can’t blame for not wanting a weak, insecure, inexperienced, boring, or disheveled man who can’t keep a conversation interested.  Ask yourself… do you enjoy this type of conversation?

Now let’s talk about…

2.  What do women find interesting?

A.) Women love small talk that involves conversation topics that they find interesting.  I’ve identified 12 conversation topics that work best for connecting with a woman.  Some of these topics include music, food, childhood memories, observations about her, and traveling.  If you want to read more about this, read this article on the best conversation topics.

B.) The best way to keep a conversation interesting is to draw out emotions out of the woman you’re talking to.  Woman love feeling emotions.  This is why topics like traveling, childhood memories, and music work really well for making small talk.  Because these topics tend to lead a woman into an emotional state.  It is much easier to connect with someone when the both of you are in a highly charged emotional state.

C.) The best type of small talk is when the conversation stays “in the moment.”  This means that you’re laughing and making jokes about what is currently going on around you.  This is because it identifies the two of you are connecting.  You can stay in the moment by making observations about your surroundings.  Or you can stay in the moment by making observations about her.  Remember, women love talking about themselves.

D.) If you really want to make women enjoy small talk with you… you want to make sure that you appear relaxed, confident, and playful.  You also want to try to make sure that you’re the one leading the conversation along.  Women like men who take control.  They don’t want the burden of keeping the conversation going.

F.) Another good tactic for keeping small talk interesting is to tell good stories.  A good story will interest just about anyone you’re talking to. So instead of just reciting facts, tell stories that evoke emotions.

www.tsbmag.com

Small Talk: Who, What, Where, When, Why | Speaking

This page looks at at the practice and background of making small talk in English.

WHO makes small talk?

People with many different relationships use small talk. The most common type of people to use small talk are those who do not know each other at all. Though we often teach children not to talk to strangers, adults are expected to say at least a few words in certain situations (see where). It is also common for people who are only acquaintances, often called a «friend of a friend», to use small talk. Other people who have short casual conversations are office employees who may not be good friends but work in the same department. Customer service representatives, waitresses, hairdressers and receptionists often make small talk with customers. If you happen to be outside when the mailman comes to your door you might make small talk with him too.

WHAT do people make small talk about?

There are certain «safe» topics that people usually make small talk about. The weather is probably the number one thing that people who do not know each other well discuss. Sometimes even friends and family members discuss the weather when they meet or start a conversation. Another topic that is generally safe is current events. As long as you are not discussing a controversial issue, such as a recent law concerning equal rights, it is usually safe to discuss the news. Sports news is a very common topic, especially if a local team or player is in a tournament or play-off or doing extremely well or badly. Entertainment news, such as a celebrity who is in town, is another good topic. If there is something that you and the other speaker has in common, that may also be acceptable to talk about. For example, if the bus is extremely full and there are no seats available you might talk about reasons why. Similarly, people in an office might casually discuss the new paint or furniture. There are also some subjects that are not considered acceptable when making small talk. Discussing personal information such as salaries or a recent divorce is not done between people who do not know each other well. Compliments on clothing or hair are acceptable; however, you should never say something (good or bad) about a person’s body. Negative comments about another person not involved in the conversation are also not acceptable: when you do not know a person well you cannot be sure who their friends are. You do not talk about private issues either, because you do not know if you can trust the other person with your secrets or personal information. Also, it is not safe to discuss subjects that society deems controversial such as religion or politics. Lastly, it is not wise to continue talking about an issue that the other person does not seem comfortable with or interested in.

WHERE do people make small talk?

People make small talk just about anywhere, but there are certain places where it is very common. Most often, small talk occurs in places where people are waiting for something. For example, you might chat with another person who is waiting for the bus to arrive, or to the person beside you waiting to get on an aeroplane. People also make small talk in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room, or in queues at the grocery store. At the office, people make small talk in elevators or lunchrooms and even in restrooms, especially if there is a line-up. Some social events (such as a party) require small talk among guests who do not know each other very well. For example, you might talk to someone you do not know at the punch bowl, or at the poolside. It is called «mingling» when people walk around in a social setting and talk to a variety of people.

WHEN do people make small talk?

The most common time for small talk to occur is the first time you see or meet someone on a given day. For example, if you see a co-worker in the lounge you might say hello and discuss the sports or weather. However, the next time you see each other you might just smile and say nothing. If there is very little noise, that might be an indication that it is the right time to initiate a casual conversation. You should only spark up a conversation after someone smiles and acknowledges you. Do not interrupt two people in order to discuss something unimportant such as the weather. If someone is reading a book or writing a letter at the bus stop it is not appropriate to initiate a conversation either. Another good time to make small talk is during a break in a meeting or presentation when there is nothing important going on. Finally, it is important to recognize the cue when the other person wants the conversation to stop.

WHY do people make small talk?

There are a few different reasons why people use small talk. The first, and most obvious, is to break an uncomfortable silence. Another reason, however, is simply to fill time. That is why it is so common to make small talk when you are waiting for something. Some people make small talk in order to be polite. You may not feel like chatting with anyone at a party, but it is rude to just sit in a corner by yourself. After someone introduces you to another person, you do not know anything about them, so in order to show a polite interest in getting to know them better, you have to start with some small talk.

www.englishclub.com

Small talk — definition of small talk by The Free Dictionary

I find the new small talk delightful and quite innocent.In those days conversation was still cultivated as an art; a neat repartee was more highly valued than the crackling of thorns under a pot; and the epigram, not yet a mechanical appliance by which the dull may achieve a semblance of wit, gave sprightliness to the small talk of the urbane.Priscilla came down, apronless and smudgeless, Stella reduced her corner to decency, and Phil saved the situation by a stream of ready small talk.Do tell me something amusing but not spiteful,» said the ambassador’s wife, a great proficient in the art of that elegant conversation called by the English, small talk.There’s no quarrelling, bickering, slandthering, nor small talk amongst us.They present the same rosy complexions and straw-colored mustachios, the same plump cheeks, vacant eyes and low forehead; and they utter, with the same stolid gravity, the same imbecile small talk.The baseless fabric of a vision, then, shall furnish my theme—chosen with apologies and regrets instead of the more limited field of pretty Polly’s small talk.After the anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom, and when and where.Seating myself near the window, a little back from the circle, I called Arthur to me, and he and I and Sancho amused ourselves very pleasantly together, while the two young ladies baited his mother with small talk, and Fergus sat opposite with his legs crossed and his hands in his breeches-pockets, leaning back in his chair, and staring now up at the ceiling, now straight forward at his hostess (in a manner that made me strongly inclined to kick him out of the room), now whistling sotto voce to himself a snatch of a favourite air, now interrupting the conversation, or filling up a pause (as the case might be) with some most impertinent question or remark.Without studying the business, however, or knowing what he was about, Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love; and to the credit of the lady it may be added that, without his being a man of the world or an elder brother, without any of the arts of flattery or the gaieties of small talk, he began to be agreeable to her.Much there was which Tarzan could make Tantor understand, and though the small talk of the wild was beyond the great, gray dreadnaught of the jungle, he stood with blinking eyes and gently swaying trunk as though drinking in every word of it with keenest appreciation.I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a prolonged effusion of small talk.

www.thefreedictionary.com

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