One of the greatest things about learning a language is getting to talk to new people.
You get to learn all about their lives, their culture and any crazy random subjects that might pop up.
However, getting into conversation with natives is easier said than done.
No matter how good your general grasp of Spanish is or how many phrases you’ve learned, when it comes time to speak and the pressure’s on, you may find yourself tongue-tied.
Know what you need? A script.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I want to have a real conversation!”
Don’t worry, you will! Sometimes when you’re just starting out, though, it helps to have a rough idea of where a conversation might go.
So in this post, we’ll look at some sample dialogues for common situations involving practical concerns and small talk that you may experience in a Spanish-speaking environment.
Knowing what to expect, having the materials to practice and getting general templates of common conversations stuck in your head can go a long way toward helping you get off the ground.
So on your next trip to Mexico, you can be sure that the taxi driver is taking you to the airport instead of the mall. And hey, while you’re in that cab, have a chat with the driver. They have some pretty good stories.
But first, here are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re trying to master Spanish conversation.
How to Move Beyond Phrases and into Spanish Conversation
Understanding Tú vs. Usted
One of the major hurdles in Spanish conversation is grasping the idea of formal and informal. In English, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to your boss about a raise or talking to your mom about Sunday’s potluck. You use the same verb conjugations and there’s no real difference.
In Spanish, it’s a different story. There are two ways you can refer to someone when you’re speaking to them. Tú is informal and usted is formal.
Why does it matter? It’s all about respect and the way you want to present yourself. Try thinking about tú on the same field as “dude” and usted like saying “sir.”
When to use tú:
1. With friends.
2. With children.
3. With classmates.
4. With family.
5. With anyone who uses tú first.
When to use usted:
1. With strangers.
2. With superiors or anyone you want to show respect to.
3. With an older person you want to show respect to (like a friend’s grandmother).
4. With someone in a position of authority (a boss, a president, etc.).
5. When addressing a public audience (in this case it would be ustedes).
Now that we know who we’re talking to, let’s figure out how to talk to them. How do you conjugate a verb with tú and how do you conjugate it with usted?
Since we’re talking about talking, we’ll use hablar (to speak) as the example:
The easiest way to remember this is that in usted you drop the “s.” If you hear someone add an “s” when they’re speaking to you, then you do the same. To be on the safe side, just mimic whatever mood the other person is using.
Learning Key Verbs
One problem with sample conversations is that they can be limiting. You may or may not have the exact conversations in the examples below. So where does that leave you as a learner? Still a little bit lost, or at least that’s how it was for me when I started.
So rather than giving you a pound of fish, let’s give you a fishing pole. It’s so vital to learn when to use verbs and what verbs to use. If you have a selection of verbs in your word bank that you can pull on, then all of a sudden your conversations become more flexible and natural
For each section, I’ve added some key verbs that you’ll want to look at and learn. Verbs will get you places. Even if you only know the infinitive, you can still communicate with others.
You’re On! 3 Types of Spanish Conversations You Can Learn to Have Right Now
1. Meeting Someone New
As we just discussed, when you meet someone new you’ll use usted unless they start using tú. The only time this rule doesn’t apply is if you’re meeting a child.
So let’s look at some conversation examples for meeting someone new.
Hola, me llamo Juan. ¿Cómo se llama? (Hello, my name is Juan. What is your name?)
Now, in this example, we don’t even say the word usted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Here’s what that would look like:
Hola, me llamo Juan. ¿Cómo se llama usted? (Hello, my name is Juan. What is your name?).
Hola, Juan, me llamo Cristina. ¿De dónde eres tú? (Hello, Juan, my name is Cristina. Where are you from?)
Oh man, that Cristina has just jumped into the tú form, what do you do? Apparently Cristina already feels pretty comfortable with you, so just mimic what she does.
Soy de los Estados Unidos. ¿Y tú? (I am from the U.S. And you?)
Soy de Paraguay. Es un gusto conocerte. (I am from Paraguay. It is a pleasure to meet you.)
Let’s get to know Cristina a bit better. There are some phrases that’ll help you with Spanish small talk and it’s a good idea to keep them in your back pocket. But right now, let’s look at some more actual conversation and see how it flows.
Cristina, ¿a qué te dedicas? (Cristina, what do you do?)
Soy maestra. ¿Y tú? (I am a teacher. And yourself?)
Trabajo con animales. (I work with animals.)
Me encantan los animales. ¿Tienes mascota? (I love animals. Do you have a pet?)
Sí, un perro y un gato. (Yes, a dog and a cat.)
Above is a conversation about work. You can see the structure is pretty simple. Now you know how to ask someone what they do and you know how to respond in turn.
Cristina, ¿tienes novio? (Cristina, do you have a boyfriend?)
No, no tengo novio. ¿Tienes novia? (No, I do not have a boyfriend. Do you have a girlfriend?)
No, no tengo novia. ¿Quieres ir a tapear conmigo este viernes? (No, I do not have a girlfriend. Would you like to go and get tapas with me on Friday?)
Sería un placer. (It would be my pleasure.)
Wow, Juan is pretty bold to ask Cristina out so quickly. Then again, she started speaking with tú right away, so that got things friendlier faster.
Here are some useful verbs that’ll help you when you’re meeting someone new. Take some time to really study them and how they’re conjugated.
Conocer (To meet)
Hablar (To talk)
Ser (To be)
Estar (To be)
Decir (To tell)
Escuchar (To listen)
Now, let’s leave Cristina and Juan to their date, and we’ll start exploring some other conversations.
2. Getting Around
You’ve just landed in Barcelona and you want to drop your bags off at the hotel and then go and see the sights around town. The challenge? Getting to the hotel! First things first, let’s get a cab.
Perdón, ¿dónde están los taxis? (Excuse me, where are the taxis?)
Los taxis están afuera. (The taxis are outside.)
¡Gracias! (Thank you!)
This conversation is pretty basic, but it shows you how to ask where something is. You can replace “taxis” with anything. If you’re looking for a restaurant, restaurante. Maybe you need to find a subway, or metro. And so on.
You’ve found the taxi, let’s get going.
¿A dónde va? (Where are you going?)
Necesito ir al Hotel de los Reyes. (I need to go to the Kings’ Hotel.)
Vale, serán unos quince minutos. (Okay, it will be about fifteen minutes.)
But what if you’re looking for something and you need to ask a stranger?
Señor, ¿me puede decir dónde está la calle Rafael? (Sir, could you tell me where Rafael Street is?)
Claro, sigue esta calle hasta llegar a la estatua. Después gira a la derecha. Y allí está la calle Rafael. (Of course, follow this street until you get to the statue. After that, turn to the right. That’s where Rafael Street is).
Perfecto, gracias. (Perfect, thank you.)
Once again, this conversation layout can be applied whenever you’re looking for something.
Don’t forget to keep these verbs in your pocket when you’re traveling:
Ir (To go)
Andar/caminar (To walk)
Conducir (To drive)
Girar (To turn)
Volar (To fly)
Not everyone travels abroad for fun and games. Some people have to get some work done. Don’t worry, we’re going to help you guys out, too!
3. Hard at Work
Many companies have international offices or operations. Whether you’re physically visiting Peru or just having a conference call with their office, it’s valuable to know how to have a conversation in Spanish that’s all about business.
Miguel, ¿cuándo estará lista la presentación? (Miguel, when will the presentation be ready?)
Necesito una semana más para terminarla. (I need one more week to finish it.)
¿Puede tenerla lista en cinco días? (Can you have it ready in five days?)
Sí, pero me debe una. (Yes, but you owe me.)
Whenever you’re in a business conversation, it’s a good idea to use usted. Even if you’re the boss (this is just my opinion), and you’re speaking to someone who’s below you on the chain of command.
An office, or any workplace environment, is a professional setting. It’s just like wearing a suit instead of jeans. When you’re at work, you should keep the tone work appropriate. Now, in the context of the dialogue above, when you take Miguel out for dinner later, then you can speak in tú because you’ve dropped the tie and you’re in a more appropriate setting.
As I mentioned, this is just my opinion. Tú and usted are very fluid and there are no real unbreakable rules. Just go with what you feel is appropriate.
Este café siempre tiene mal sabor. (This coffee always has a bad taste.)
¿De verdad? Debería traer mi propio café. (Right? I should bring my own coffee.)
Hablaré con el jefe. (I’ll talk to the boss.)
Buena suerte. (Good luck.)
Most conversations at the office are actually about coffee, right?
Miguel, ¿me puede ayudar con este programa? (Miguel, can you help me with this program?)
Por supuesto. (Of course.)
Siempre me da problemas. (It always gives me problems.)
Es un programa complicado. (It is a complicated program.)
This conversation about the program can be applied to other aspects of business and work. For example, instead of programa you could talk about a proyecto (project) or informe (report).
Here are some important verbs to have handy when you’re in an office or a business setting:
Escribir (To write/type)
Leer (To read)
Imprimir (To print)
Trabajar (To work)
Comunicar (To communicate)
So there you have it!
Some sample Spanish conversations and handy verb collections that’ll help you in most situations while you’re traveling or living abroad. Good luck!