Conversation is hard. Especially with a stranger. And especially with a language partner or teachers where you have to have a conversation of 30-60 minutes like with a tutor on italki (still our favourite way to schedule lessons with teachers in any language)
These questions are fun. They’re much more interesting than “How many brothers do you have?” or “Will you visit any of the famous sites here?” I mean… those are obvious. But can’t talk for an hour about them.
Someone asking “How many siblings do you have?” on a first date is never a good sign. But if someone asks you “Would you rather eat your favourite meal for the rest of your life, or never eat it again?”… now you’re talking.
So here are a bunch of topics you can use in with language teachers or partners. Or even language-partner dates!
Sometimes a great teacher can’t pick a conversation topic for a lesson, and sometimes you get stuck talking about the same things over and over.
To mix it up, we think of all the great conversations we’ve had with language partners. Usually they’re a bit silly. And we share some ideas below on what you can talk about.
In this guide…
- Conversation topics for language study sessions
- How to use the conversation topics to learn a language effectively
- Why you need these conversation topics
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On to the language study conversation topics. Click on each heading to see the questions below!
- I’ll guess your age, and then you tell me that age you think I am!
- Does your name have some special meaning or did your parents just think it sounded nice?
- Do people think you’re a girl because of your name?
- If you were any animal, which one would you be?
- What’s a nickname you used to have that you hated?
- Have you ever lied to your parents… or to your partner?
- Would you consider plastic surgery?
- If you had three wishes, what would they be? And you can’t wish for a million wishes!
- Would you rather have the eyes of an eagle, the ears of a dog, or the nose of a … also dog?
- Have you been in a physical fight? Did you win?
- Do you think you’re lucky?
- What’s one thing you’re addicted to?
- If you could pick any of these superpowers, what would it be? a) moving things with your mind, b) reading minds, c) flying, d) people to make them do what you want, or e) never having to pay for anything
- What’s something embarrassing that happened to you this year?
- Are you a dog person or a cat person? Or just a person person?
Food and Diet
- Have you ever tried being vegetarian or vegan? If not, why do you hate animals?
- Have you ever tried a paleo diet? If so, why do you hate science?
- Do you think breakfast is really the most important meal of the day, or that it was a conspiracy by the American Bacon Lobby?
- If you had to eat one food (or kind of food) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- Was there some food you hated as a child that you like (or maybe love) now?
- Do you think men should know how to cook?
- What’s a food that you like even though it’s totally basic?
- Have you ever eaten ice cream or chocolate before breakfast?
- If you found a hair in your food, would you keep eating it? What about two hairs? What’s the maximum number of hairs
- What’s one food you’d never give up?
- Have you ever quit coffee or tea?
- Have you ever complained to a restaurant that the food wasn’t good?
- What country in the world do you think has the best food, apart from Japan obviously?
- Do you know how to cook? No, eggs do not count
- What’s your favourite kind of fast food?
- Do you like to split the bill with friends (or dates), or do you think one person should pay?
- Do you come here often?
- What’s a nice person like you doing in a place like this?
- What did you want to be when you were a kid? What happened?
- Do you like your boss?
- If you could make more money, or make the same money but work less, what would you choose?
- What’s the weirdest job you ever had?
- Has anyone ever told you “I won’t work for a woman”?
- Out of all your friends, what’s the weirdest job that anyone has?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do?
- How much money is “enough money”?
- What age do you want to retire?
- Is laziness really the mother of invention, or is it hard work?
- Do you keep looking for jobs even after you get one?
- What’s the shortest time you’ve ever worked at a company?
- Did both your parents work, or just one?
- Do you like to “work from home”?
- Do you do a second job, to make more money?
- Have you ever wanted to start your own business?
- If you could make your money doing anything, what would that thing be?
- Have you ever stolen anything from work?
- How much time do you spend at work actually working?
- Is the work you do now what you imagined it’d be a year ago?
- If your company shut down overnight, would you be upset, or relieved?
- Is there racism in your country?
- Are there jobs that you secretly think are men’s jobs?
- What are some sports where everyone watches them, regardless if they’re men or women playing?
- Are you secretly racist about anyone? Why and what are you doing about it?
- What’s your culture known for being like or doing?
- When people tell jokes and there’s a simple person in the joke, where’s that simple person from?
- Do you think women have fair opportunities in Western countries?
- Do you like trying foods from new cultures, or do you think they’re weird?
- What do you think we can do to raise children to be more open-minded?
- Are you seeing anyone else right now?
- What’s the longest you’ve been in a relationship?
- When was the last relationship you had?
- What is your “love language”: is it speaking, quality time, acts of service, gifts, or quality time?
- Have you been married before? Or now??
- Are you still friends with your ex?
- What’s something you used to always fight about?
- Hypothetically speaking, do you like to pay for your date’s dinner?
- What’s the shortest relationship you’ve had? Actually don’t answer that question.
- Did you think you were a good kid? What about now, are you a good son/daughter?
- What do your parents think of you? Do they understand your life?
- Which of your siblings do you like the most? Be honest!
- Do you have children? Do you ever regret it?
- Do you regret not having children? What are you doing with your freedom, anyway?
- Have you ever wondered if you’re adopted?
- Do you have a particularly weird uncle who always says inappropriate things?
- What kind of grandparent would you be: a) fun, b) wise, or c) the kind who isn’t good with kids?
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Do you floss every day? EVERY DAY??
- Have you ever smoked?
- Do you ever just turn your phone off?
- What’s a bad habit that you used to have that you’ve now kicked?
- What kind of TV shows do you like to watch?
- Do you use Twitter? Why?
- Are your parents on Instagram?
- What websites do you go to when you’re bored?
- What’s something that really annoys you in everyday life?
- Are you always on time, early, or late?
- Do you tend to procrastinate?
- Do you prefer to do one thing at a time, or to multitask?
- What is a “perfect” weekend day to you? Is it doing nothing?
Health and Exercise
- When was the last time you went to the gym?
- Are you a member of a gym, but never go?
- Would you rather exercise and eat more, or not exercise and eat less?
- Have you ever been to hospital for something serious?
- How much can you lift?
- Do you drink alcohol? Or soda/soft drink?
- What’s the furthest you’ve ever walked in a day?
- Does watching sports count as doing sport? what about eSports?
- Do you think marijuana should be legalised?
- What do you think of marriage equality?
- If you could decide, how many days should a weekend be?
- Do you even believe in marriage?
- Do you vote?
- If you die, would you donate your body to science?
- What’s an ad you really like?
- Have you ever eaten in a soup kitchen?
- What would you do if you found a wallet with $2,000 in it?
- Do you ever give money to poor people because you felt bad, and then you feel bad anyway?
- What charity do you give money to?
- How much do you tip in restaurants?
- What sports do you watch?
- Do you think it’s OK for parents to hit their children as discipline? What about teachers?
- If you could clone any past world leader and ask them to run the world, who would it be?
- Which countries are ruining the world?
- Do you believe in public healthcare and education?
- Should smoking be illegal?
- Do you think illegal immigrants should be deported, or welcomed?
- Did you secretly learn to drive when you were a child?
- Do you ever text while driving?
- Have you ever hit an animal… or a person?
- Do you like seeing the ocean, or mountains?
- Do you eat street food and not care if maybe you’ll get sick?
- Have you ever been in an accident?
- Do you like airplane food?
- Have you ever wanted to pick up a hitchhiker?
- If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
- Do you get angry in traffic?
- How often do you post selfies on Instagram?
- What’s the first thing you do when you get to a country: a) eat something, b) get a sim card, or c) visit somewhere cool?
- Do you think the best times lie ahead, or do you worry your best years are already behind you?
- What’s something you’re superstitious about?
- Do you believe in god? Or God?
- Have you ever seen a ghost?
- Do you believe in life after death? If that changed… what would you do differently in life?
- How do you think you will die? In your bed, in an adventure sport, or something scarier?
- Are you religious? How religious are you? On a scale of “I try not to eat some things” all the way to “I try to convert people to my religion”
- Have you ever tried to move something with your mind?
- Do you think there are aliens in Area 51?
- What’s the movie you’ve seen more than any others?
- Do you secretly read celebrity news?
- Do you like Star Wars? Wait… you’ve never seen it?
- What television shows do you binge-watch?
- Do you like going to art galleries or do you think they’re boring?
- Is graffiti art?
- Would you have liked to be famous? Assuming you’re not famous already…
- If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would it be?
- If I asked you to sing me a song, what would it be? Sing it!
How to use these language study conversation topics
You don't need to just read them out loud (which would only work if you're studying English as a second language, anyway).
First, scan through each conversation topic and think if it's something suitable for talking to your language partner about. Be culturally sensitive. Remember that discussing marriage equality, for example, isn't for everyone (and it might not be for you).
Secondly, try to translate the questions into the language you're studying. It can be hard to translate them, as they're difficult questions, with structures like "Have you ever?" and "If you were...?"
Third, tell your partner ahead of schedule that you want to use these topics. Even send them this web page! It'll help set the tone, and it won't seem artificial and weird.
Fourthly, have fun. If you really struggle to have a conversation with a language partner or teacher... then find another one.
Why you should use more conversation topics when you study a foreign language
Even if your conversation partner becomes your friend, there's always a risk you get stuck in a rut. You talk with your friends about the same things all the time. I could talk for hours about my favourite topics of coffee, motorcycles, languages, and so on.
So look through the list and find something you're interested in that you haven't talked about yet in the language you're studying. Propose it and see how it goes.