Many students study Spanish to expand their travel possibilities—and to converse while they’re out globetrotting!
Others want to communicate with family, friends and neighbors.
Still others want Spanish to help them succeed in business.
So, for these guys, the ultimate goal is being able to speak.
This is where our magical teaching powers come in.
Traditional conversation practice often involves questions on generic topics that bore students, but we can do better.
With the right topics in hand, we have the power to keep students entertained, interested and motivated.
While conventional Spanish curriculum conversation topics are often irrelevant to students’ interests, learning preferences and current trends in the world, we can turn this around—all while exercising all their essential language skills.
How to Maximize Spanish Learning During Conversation Practice
As Spanish educators, it’s vital that we find a delicate balance between challenging our students and also cultivating their self-worth, especially regarding their comfort with speaking.
One essential way of doing this well is emphasizing and rewarding their communication efforts and willingness to practice speaking, temporarily placing grammatical correctness on the back burner (unless the errors are grave, in which case you can repeat the correct way to say it back to them).
Another way to ensure that we’re tending to this balance is by continually seeking student feedback regarding our conversation practice sessions:
- What (else) are they most interested in being able to talk about?
- What was difficult or easy in the below prompts?
- What other language tools or assistance do they need to improve?
In this spirit, I’ve found it effective to start with “open” general prompts, which each topic starts with below, so students can work from what they know and establish confidence to take risks later on.
Then you can move to more specific, technical vocabulary and related skills that are key to talking about the topic.
From trial and error, I’ve also come to believe that knowing how to initiate and understand basic greetings and small talk—with a good degree of confidence—is a prerequisite to discussing the below topics.
If some casual and authentic conversation is something you’d like your students to practice, then you may want to check out FluentU as a teaching tool.
FluentU takes authentic videos videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Since all the content is the type that real native speakers would watch, students can be exposed to the Spanish language as it’s genuinely used in different contexts.
14 Superb Spanish Class Conversation Topics for Modern Students
Each of the 14 Spanish conversation topics below can be 2- to 10-minute conversation prompts for discussion in pairs or small groups.
As noted above, I’ve found it useful to start with more general, open-ended prompts, see how students manage them and then generate more specific or tailored prompts accordingly.
1. ¿A dónde quisieras viajar y por qué? (Where would you like to travel and why?)
As students’ travel possibilities grow in line with their Spanish skills, being able to verbalize where they would like to travel, or work or study, is essential. Once they can verbalize this, the next step is practice for the real thing.
The first prompt above can mutate into variations of the four questions below as students gradually learn to discuss various aspects of travel.
a. El transporte (Transportation)
¿La gente usa Uber o Lyft aquí o prefiere el transporte público cuando se pueda? ¿Por qué?
(Do people use Uber or Lyft here, or do they prefer public transport whenever possible? Why?)
b. Los precios (Pricing)
¿La vida es cara por aquí? Por lo general, ¿cuánto necesito ganar para vivir aquí? ¿Por qué?
(Is life expensive around here? In general, how much do I need to make to live here? Why?)
c. El hospedaje (Lodging)
¿Qué área de la ciudad recomiendas para quedarse? ¿Por qué?
(Which area in the city do you recommend to stay the night? Why?)
¿La gente suele usar AirBNB aquí? ¿En cuáles partes de la ciudad y por qué?
(Do people tend to use AirBNB here? In what parts of the city and why?)
d. Servicios médicos (Medical services)
¿Cuáles son las características de un buen médico?
(What are the characteristics of a good doctor?)
2. ¿Cómo es el clima hoy? (How’s the weather today?)
We can’t leave out the safest, most common topic of conversation out there. It’s too useful for conversing with strangers in elevators and supermarkets.
¿Cuál es tu estación favorita y por qué?
(What’s your favorite season and why?)
¿Qué harías si las estaciones nunca cambiaran y todos los días fueran verano?
(What would you do if the seasons never changed and every day was summer?)
¿Suele llover aquí? ¿Debería llevar paraguas a todas partes, por si acaso?
(Is it often rainy here? Should I take an umbrella everywhere, just in case?)
3. ¿Qué te gusta comer? (What do you like to eat?)
As Spanish educators, we know how vital food is to Latin culture. Perhaps being able to ask and answer a few of these prompts below will be more important than travel vocab, especially for those students who won’t have the luxury of travel, yet want to connect deeply to Latin culture!
¿Cuáles son tus platos favoritos? ¿Tus refrigerios favoritos? ¿Qué se te antoja?
(What are your favorite dishes? Your favorite snacks? What are you in the mood for?)
¿Cuáles son tus restaurantes favoritos y por qué?
(What are your favorite restaurants and why?)
¿Qué te gusta cocinar y por qué?
(What do you like to cook and why?)
As an aside, you can also have fun with your students by exploring the word como (I eat, like, as, how) by creating a (somewhat) legitimate question with 4 comos in a row:
¿Cómo como como como?
(How do I eat the way I eat?)
4. ¿Cuáles son tus redes sociales favoritas? ¿Por qué? (What are your favorite social networks? Why?)
The children and adolescents of today’s generation (dubbed Generation Z) are glued to Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, averaging 2 to 7 hours spent on their devices daily! As Spanish educators, it’s imperative that we respond to this pull and integrate their favorite tech jargon into our conversation lessons.
After spending a good amount of time discussing the more general conversation topic above, you can move on to some more specific follow-up questions. Below are some examples.
¿Cuáles son tus apps favoritas?
(What are you favorite apps?)
¿Usas Siri? Si lo usas, ¿para qué y cuándo?
(Do you use Siri? If so, for what and when?)
¿Utilizas Snapchat? Cuáles son las ventajas de Snapchat?
(Do you use Snapchat? What are the advantages of Snapchat?)
¿Prefieres Instagram o Facebook? ¿Por qué?
(Do you prefer Instagram or Facebook? Why?)
¿Qué tiendes a publicar en tu muro de Face?
(What do you tend to publish on your Facebook page?)
5. ¿Cuál es tu serie favorita en Netflix? (What’s your favorite show on Netflix?)
Netflix recently reported over 75 million global subscribers in almost every country of the world, and competitors such as Amazon and Hulu are also gaining traction in the battle to be your primary source of entertainment.
It’s important to be able to socialize and discuss our frequently-used entertainment to connect with others and enjoy entertainment together.
¿Cuál es tu actor o actriz favorito/a y por qué?
(Who is your favorite actor/actress and why?)
¿Te gustan las telenovelas? ¿Por qué?
(Do you like soap operas in Spanish? Why?)
¿Te gustan las series originales de Netflix? ¿Por qué sí o por qué no?
(Do you like Netflix original series? Why or why not?)
¿Qué serie o película has visto recientemente? ¿Te gustó?
(What show or movie have you seen recently? Did you like it?)
6. ¿Cuáles son tus principales intereses personales? (What are your main personal interests?)
What kind of Spanish educators would we be if our students practiced conversation yet weren’t able to discuss themselves?
To build meaningful interpersonal relationships in Spanish, it’s important that students practice expressing themselves, as well as describing what they do in their leisure time and to relax. Other pertinent conversation prompts can be:
¿Qué haces los sábados?
(What do you do on Saturdays?)
¿Cuál es tu actividad favorita y por qué?
(What is your favorite activity and why?)
¿Qué es lo que más te relaja y por qué?
(What is it that most relaxes you and why?)
7. ¿Cuál es tu carrera? (What’s your major?)
Successful language learning involves securing a social support network for mutual motivation, support and practice. It’s clearly a significant plus when Spanish language students can talk about their studies, majors and career interests.
When students discover what they have in common (which is often a lot because they’re in the same class), it can help them forge long-lasting connections. The following prompts can help them expand beyond conversations about their majors.
¿Cuál es tu clase favorita y por qué?
(What is your favorite class and why?)
¿Qué tenemos de tarea hoy? ¿Es fácil o difícil? ¿Por qué?
(What do we have for homework today? Is it easy or hard? Why?)
¿Cuáles son tus metas profesionales?
(What are your professional goals?)
¿Cuál es la/el profesora/o que más te gusta y por qué?
(Which professor do you like the most?)
¡Ojo! Have students watch out for the tricky cognate carrera. While it can refer to a “career” in English, in an academic setting it usually refers to one’s major.
8. ¿Qué salió hoy en las noticias? (What happened today in the news?)
As many students take Spanish courses and lessons to expand their travel options, it’s particularly useful to be able to speak about what’s going on in a given country or city!
Discussing this will help them not only connect with locals but also make safe and informed travel decision. Ideally students can have dialogues about what’s happening today, as well as ask about opinions and formulate their own opinions:
¿Qué piensas de lo que pasó hoy en las noticias?
(What do you think about what happened today in the news?)
¿Es seguro pasear solo por este país?
(Is it safe to travel alone around this country?)
9. ¿Cómo influye actualmente la política en el país? (How do politics currently influence the country?)
Similar to #8 above, students should be able to speak about a country’s politics and their influence on current events. It’s fine to get a little more specific and talk about personal political stances.
¿Te consideras republicano/a, demócrata o independiente?
(Do you consider yourself Republican, Democrat or Independent?)
¡Ojo! Be aware that this can be a highly charged and sensitive subject. Make sure students are being respectful of one another during these dialogues.
10. ¿Cuál es tu religión? ¿Asistes a una iglesia regularmente? (What’s your religion? Do you attend church regularly?)
Religion is fundamental to Latin American culture. Latin America tends to be very Catholic. It’s important to know basic nomenclature and vocab, and to be able to hold a discussion about religious beliefs and customs. This is a good topic for older high school and university students, as well as adults.
¡Ojo! Similar to politics, religion is undoubtedly a sensitive topic, so it’s vital to establish trust and mutual respect before diving into a conversation about religion and beliefs.
If students seem comfortable with the first general prompt, you can expand with the following prompts:
¿Tienes creencias religiosas? Si tienes, ¿cuáles son?
(Do you have religious beliefs? If so, what are they?)
¿La religión te ayuda a ser más fuerte y a superar los momentos difíciles?
(Does religion help you be stronger and overcome difficult times?)
¿En tu niñez fuiste criado con alguna religión? ¿Cómo fue?
(Were you raised with any religion in your childhood? What was it like?)
11. ¿Quiénes son tus mejores amigos? ¿Tienes pareja? (Who are your best friends? Are you in a relationship?)
Humans are fundamentally social creatures, wired with social brain circuitry, so our social circle is paramount not only to well-being but also to language learning. After all, how can we practice our language skills in isolation?
Students ideally should be able to converse about their friendships and important relationships. To expand, other prompts are:
¿Cómo son tus amigos?
(What are your friends like?)
¿Qué te gusta hacer con tus amigos?
(What do you like to do with your friends?)
Cuando se reúnen, ¿suelen llegar a tiempo? ¿Quién no llega a tiempo? ¿Por qué?
(When you and your friends meet, does everyone usually arrive on time? Who doesn’t arrive on time? Why?)
12. ¿Cómo es tu familia? (What’s your family like?)
Family is not only paramount in Latin American culture but all cultures universally!
Students should be able to converse about their own families and ask about others’ families. It’s important for students to know that in Latin America the concept of family extends beyond the nuclear family, unlike the norm in the United States, and includes extended family. Among pertinent prompts are:
¿Es casado/a tu hermana/o? Si es casado/a, ¿cómo es tu cuñado/a?
(Is your sibling married? If yes, what is your brother or sister-in-law like?)
¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de tu familia?
(What do you like most about your family?)
¿Con quién más te llevas en tu familia y por qué?
(Who do you get along with best in your family and why?)
13. ¿Cómo es tu casa y tu barrio? (What’s your house and neighborhood like?)
Where we live and who we live with are central to our lives. Students should be able to talk about their homes and neighborhoods, especially when they’re meeting foreign Spanish-speaking natives, so they can get to know each other better.
Here are other prompts to expand this dialogue:
¿Vives con familia, amigos, colegas, conocidos, desconocidos o solo?
(Do you live with family, friends, colleagues, people you know or don’t know, or alone?)
¿Qué tan cerca queda tu casa a la escuela o el centro?
(How close is your home to school or downtown?)
¿Cómo es la sala de tu casa?
(What’s the living room like in your home?)
14. ¿Qué tipo de música más te gusta? (What’s your favorite kind of music?)
We can’t forget music! How many times as a Spanish educator have you needed to ask your students to remove their headphones?
There has never been a society where people don’t play and listen to music. It’s innate to our being. There’s evidence that babies exposed to certain types of music in their mother’s wombs develop heightened learning and creative capacities later in life.
It turns out big tech behemoths are also warring for your music streaming dollars, and our students are most likely using a music streaming service often. To develop this music and tech language, here are some follow-up prompts:
¿Prefieres Apple music, Pandora o Spotify y por qué?
(Do you prefer Apple music, Pandora or Spotify, and why?)
¿Cuáles son tus canciones favoritas y por qué?
(What are your favorite songs and why?)
¿Cuál música no te gusta y por qué?
(What music don’t you like and why?)
¿Quien es tu artista, cantante, banda o músico favorito/a y por qué?
(Who’s your favorite artist, singer, band or musician and why?)
I hope these 14 topics prove useful to you and your students!
Conversing is the most important part of language learning to train the ears and tongue.
It all starts with piquing students’ interests and choosing relevant topics that expedite students’ learning.
Jason Linder, MA, is a doctoral student and intensely passionate Spanish tutor and blog writer. In his free time, he enjoys telenovelas, traveling around Latin America, meditation, yoga, exercise, reading and writing. Learn more about his free Spanish learning resources and tutoring.