Oh no… what do I say now?!
Avoiding awkward silences can be tough enough in your own language, let alone a language exchange.
Sometimes, you’re scrambling for a polite response.
Sometimes, you’re not sure you actually understood what your conversation partner said.
Sometimes, you’re left wondering if it was really appropriate to mention your intense feelings on hummus.
But worst of all, sometimes the conversation just runs dry.
When it comes to learning a language, a conversation exchange is one of the best tools out there. It’s an interactive language learning resource you can easily set up through language exchange apps or video call programs like Skype.
On the surface, it seems like all you need to do is find an interesting enough chat partner who speaks your target language and is learning your native language.
But if you’re having an off day or have been doing language exchanges for a while, chances are strong that at some point, you’ll be fresh out of topics to discuss.
Why Is It Important to Prepare Language Exchange Topics?
If you do much of any language exchange, you’ll probably run out of ideas of what to talk about at some point—which kills your momentum and eats into your language practice time. Having more topics ready to go ensures that you don’t have to miss out on valuable practice just because you’re drawing a blank.
So if you have an allotted time for your language exchange, why waste it trying to brainstorm topics on the fly? Having topics ready will help you prepare for any gaps in natural conversation.
You’ll also want to have language exchange topics ready in order to learn thematic vocabulary. By focusing on specific discussion topics, you’re essentially selecting what sort of vocabulary you want to practice. For instance, asking someone about their favorite foods will help you practice food-related vocabulary.
Finally, having language exchange topics ready will help get you comfortable holding a conversation on any topic. The more you practice discussing a wide array of topics, the easier it’ll be to understand and respond to native speakers in any real-life situation.
When the conversation fizzles out, look no further than these 50-plus language exchange topics to recharge your conversation engine!
50+ Language Exchange Topics to Keep the Conversation Flowing for Days
We’ve compiled more than 50 language exchange topics you might want to try out. Remember to always base your questions on what you know about your partner and what he/she will be comfortable with. What’s appropriate to ask can often vary by culture, so always take that into consideration.
FluentU is a great way to get familiar with authentic, native conversations in your target language, for newbies who are still a bit nervous or experienced exchangers who just need a little break from social interaction. FluentU provides real-world videos like movie trailers, YouTube clips, news broadcasts and more that’ve been transformed into a language learning experience.
You’ll absorb your target language the way native speakers really use it, as well as the cultural topics that are most relevant to them. Better yet, each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises to help you instantly learn and then retain any unfamiliar words. Videos are organized by learning level and genre—check out a free trial and learn how native speakers discuss the topics below as well as many others that may interest you.
This list is meant to inspire you, so don’t hesitate to come up with your own questions. You can certainly ask the obvious questions in any category, like “how old are you?” or “what do you do for a living?” To get your creative juices flowing, though, we’ve included some unexpected questions you may never have considered.
Getting to Know You
This topic is a mainstay of any language exchange. After all, it provides you with varied vocabulary practice and helps you get to know your partner better.
However, lots of new exchanges peter out after the basics have been covered. Here are some getting-to-know you questions you may not have considered. Translating and using these phrases will also help you discover more unique and nuanced ways to describe yourself to native speakers.
If you could be the same age forever, what age would you choose? Why?
How old were you when you…
…learned to drive?
…moved away from home?
…had your first kiss?
…got your first job?
How old do you think you’ll be when you…
What do you think is the ideal family size? Why?
Do you want to have children? If so, how many?
If you want children, would you prefer boys or girls? Why?
How close are you with…
…extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)?
What do you do when you get together with your family?
What do you like most about your job?
What do you dislike about your job?
If you could have any job, what would it be? Why?
What job would you most hate doing? Why?
If you could go back and choose a different career, what would you choose? Why?
What was your favorite subject in school? Why?
What was your least favorite subject in school? Why?
Looking back, what subjects do you wish you’d studied?
Do you value university education? Why or why not?
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
What languages do you wish you spoke?
What languages do you think would be hardest to learn?
What languages have you tried to learn?
What are your favorite words or phrases in languages you’ve studied?
Living Situation (Where, with Whom, etc.)
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Describe your ideal apartment/house.
Do you have roommates? What are the best and worst things about having them?
If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you choose?
What names would you consider giving a pet?
Life Where You Live
Discussing life where your partner lives not only helps you understand his/her life, it also gives you valuable cultural insight, making this topic ideal for language exchange. You might even consider looking at the CIA World Factbook to learn some information you can ask follow-up questions about.
Culture is fairly all-encompassing, so here are a few questions that don’t quite fit into other categories.
Do you have any good jokes you can share?
What sorts of stories did your parents tell you when you were little?
How important are good manners?
What sorts of things do you need to do to be considered polite?
How do you greet strangers?
How do you greet your friends and family?
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your favorite dish to make? How do you make it?
What foods do you hate?
What sort of food would you most like to try?
What foods are popular where you live?
Of course, it’s wise to tread lightly around this topic. This Jezebel article gives some tips on how approach the topic.
What religion is most common where you live?
What other religions are practiced where you live?
How is religion viewed where you live?
What’s your favorite holiday?
What holiday do you think is least important?
If you could start your own holiday, what would be celebrated? How would you celebrate?
What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
What holiday do you think is most popular where you live?
What do people do for fun on nice days?
What do people do for fun when the weather is bad?
What do people like to do when they get together with friends?
What do people like to do when they get together with family?
What do you do for fun by yourself?
Society and Government
This is another topic to tread lightly around—some people will avoid topics that could make them look like political dissidents, so try not to put them in an uncomfortable position.
Do you vote? If so, how often? How do you place your vote?
How is your town/city run?
(E.g. mayor, council, etc.)
What problems is your community/city/country facing?
What problems are you most concerned about?
What’s a comfortable wage in your country?
How much does an apartment/house cost?
Do people where you live put money in the bank or keep it at home?
Do people often invest where you live? If so, what do they invest in?
Is it important to save money? Why or why not?
Where do you receive most of your healthcare?
Who pays for your healthcare?
For how many years do most people go to school in your country?
How long is a standard school day?
What subjects do students study in school?
What’s school lunch like?
What’s the terrain like where you live?
(E.g. deserts, plains, forests, mountains, lakes, etc.)
What sort of bad weather do you have? (e.g. blizzards, thunderstorms, monsoons, tornadoes, tsunamis, droughts, etc.)
What’s your climate like?
Tell me about your city.
How are city streets organized?
(E.g. grid, winding, etc.)
What part of town is busiest?
Lifestyle can give you a lot of insight into how your partner lives and how others in his/her community live. Plus, it’s always super fun to consider what life is like around the world.
How many bedrooms are in apartments/houses where you live?
How many bathrooms do apartments/houses usually have?
How many people usually share an apartment/house?
What’s in a kitchen where you live?
Do most apartments/houses have outdoor space?
What’s your average day like? How does it compare to an average day for others in your country?
What time do people wake up?
What time do people go to bed?
What do people do on weekends?
Fashion varies wildly between countries and even regions within countries. Discussing fashion can provide you with thematic vocabulary and also prepare you not to look like a total dork if you ever choose to visit. If you need a little more prep work, you can always look at photos of international fashion shows from Elle to get an idea of the world fashion scene.
How would you describe your personal style?
What fashion trends do you like?
What fashion trends do you hate?
If you could only wear one outfit everyday, what would it be?
What outfit do you think looks best on you?
If you could copy someone else’s style, would you? If so, whose?
Do you prefer formal or informal dress? Why?
Where do people like to shop?
How much do people buy in one shopping trip?
How do people pay for their purchases?
Is shopping fun or a chore?
Tell me about the most popular stores where you live.
What do you do each morning to ensure you look your best?
If you had to change your hairstyle, what new hairstyle would you choose?
A lot of people spend their free time engaged in hobbies, and they’re a popular topic of conversation when getting to know someone or making small talk. They can reflect both cultural and individual preferences.
If you could play any sport professionally, what would it be?
What sport do you like the least?
If you could create your own sport, what would it be?
What instrument do you wish you could play?
What style of art do you like best?
If you could hang a famous painting on your wall, which would you choose? Why?
Have you ever made up a game? If so, what was it like?
What game would you choose to play to liven up a party?
While technology has made an undeniable impact on the world, its usage and purpose isn’t consistent among different regions. Discussing technology will help you learn some valuable terms that may not be in conventional language textbooks and understand the role technology plays in your language exchange partner’s life.
What do you use your computer for?
If you had to go a week without a computer, could you?
What do you use your phone for?
What’s your favorite feature of your phone?
What do you find most annoying about your phone?
What’s your favorite social media channel? Why?
Do you feel social media has improved the world? Why or why not?
What tech gadget is your favorite?
What new tech gadget would you most like to own?
What new technology would you most like to become available?
(E.g. time travel device, another new iPhone, self-replenishing ice cream tub, etc.)
Everyone enjoys some form of entertainment, so why not talk about your favorite entertainment with a language exchange partner? You’ll pick up some common vocabulary and your conversation partner might even turn you on to some great entertainment you’d never considered, so it’s a win-win!
What’s the worst movie you ever saw?
Who would you want cast as you in a movie about your life?
If you see a movie in a theater, do you purchase snacks? If so, what?
If you had to watch one TV show on repeat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What TV character do you wish you could hang out with?
What singer/musician could you listen to all day without getting annoyed?
What book genre is your favorite?
What book protagonist do you have the most in common with?
If you want a night out, where do you go?
When you go out with a group, who pays?
Travel and Transportation
Your conversation partner might walk, bike, drive, take a bus, ride a train or fly on a regular basis. Discussing travel and transportation can help you learn vocabulary related to getting around and preferred destinations. You never know—the conversation might even inspire you to book your next trip!
What was the most relaxing place you ever traveled to?
What was the most exciting place you ever traveled to?
Where do you like to stay when you go on vacation?
(E.g. hotel, hostel, short-term rental, etc.)
What was your favorite thing you ever did on vacation?
If you won an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
If you had to choose only one location to take every vacation for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Modes of Transport
What mode of transportation do you use most often in your daily life?
What mode of transportation do you find most comfortable?
What mode of transportation do you find most frustrating? Why?
Do you prefer a window or aisle seat?
The natural world surrounds us and influences our daily lives, even if we don’t always consciously consider it. This topic will open you up to vocabulary that isn’t always prioritized by language learners, but is surprisingly common in everyday life.
Do you keep any plants in your house?
What type of flower do you like best?
Do you have a garden? If so, what’s in it?
If you could plant a dream garden, what would be in it?
What animals are you afraid of?
What animals do you think are the cutest?
What sorts of animals do you see frequently?
What’s your favorite season? Why?
What’s your least favorite season? Why?
If you could stay in one season all year, would you? If so, which season?
What environmental issues concern you most?
Warning: like politics and religion, this can get dicey. Pay attention to political sensitivities, and if your partner seems uncomfortable, change the topic.
What international news concerns you most?
How do you think governments could create better understanding between nations?
What’s the worst weather disaster that’s affected your country in recent years?
What weather disasters do you see on the news that scare you?
Popular Human Interest Stories
What’s the most uplifting news story you’ve heard recently?
Goals and Accomplishments
What You’re Proud Of
What’s your greatest accomplishment in life?
Of your accomplishments, what do you think made your parents most proud?
What You Hope for the Future
What do you hope to do career-wise in the future?
Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In 20 years?
So when you need a new topic to liven up your language exchange, pick and choose from this list. You may never want your conversation to end!
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