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Language learning conversation starters

Updated on January 31, 2015

What would you like to talk about?

Learning a foreign language is a challenge and it requires practice. Both listening and speaking practice on a regular basis is required for learners to become fluent.

I am doing business in Turkey and during work hours in my office, we tend to speak Turkish because my employees are Turks and I am trying to learn Turkish. However at lunch times, we speak English because they are trying to learn English.

Starting conversations (even in your own language can be scary) so here are some conversation starters that we have been using during our lunch breaks to help our employees learn English as a second language. These are people who have passed the "Hello, how are you?" stage and we already know them; but we want to get to know them even better and help them overcome their fear of speaking in a foreign language.

Please add your conversation starters to help us out.

Many of these conversation starter ideas are good lens starter ideas too!

Comfortable with chatting?

How comfortable are you with starting conversations with non-English speakers?

See results

What did you do last night (or on the weekend)?

This is a great fall-back question

The answers can change each time because your conversation partners are doing different things.

The most important thing with practicing English conversations is to encourage participation. Ask questions that do not need a lot of thought so their focus is on speaking English and not finding the right or acceptable answers. Avoid opinion based questions and instead stick to ones that can be answered only with facts.

What was your first computer?

My Answer

My first computer was the Sega SC-2000.

I bought my first computer on the Thursday before Easter (19 April) in 1984. I was 14 years old at the time and I had saved up $NZ 300. I spent it on a SEGA SC-3000 computer.

The SEGA SC-3000 was an 8-bit computer based on the Z80 chip. Physically it consisted of a qwerty rubber button keyboard with ports for various peripherals, a wall wart AC/DC adapter and RF modulator to plug it into a TV screen for output.

What is your favorite sports team?

My answer should be: The All Blacks

But I haven't seen them play for ages

As a New Zealand citizen, my only responsibilities are obey and promote the laws of New Zealand and not act in any way that is contrary to the interests of New Zealand. Therefore even though it has been a while since I have seen an All Blacks (rugby) game, I have a responsibility to support them (and any team playing against Australia).

A great All Black tradition is to perform the Haka before the match and my Turkish friends all love the Haka dance.

What is your favorite food? How do you make it?

I would like to buy a hamburger

Pronunciation of some English words can be hard. Watch how Steve Martin as Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther 2 tries to pronounce a simple phrase. The second video is dubbed into Turkish - a language that is relatively easy to pronounce because the pronunciation rules are almost always consistent.

or What is a food unique to your country and how do you make it?

What is your favorite season of the year? Why?

My answer: Fall/Autumn

By strategically travelling between the Southern and Northern hemispheres, I have enjoyed more Autumns than my age.

Extend the questions

Don't just ask about the weather. Ask about the sort of things they like to do in their favorite season. If they love summer, do they go to the beach? Where and how to get there? Who do they go with? What do they do there?

What is the longest journey you have been on?

My answer: it depends

Self propelled: 1500 kilometres around the central North Island of New Zealand by bicycle.

Longest bus journey: From Aswan to Cairo.

Longest single flight: From Abu Dahbi to Sydney.

Tips for a good conversation

Listen carefully.

Ask open ended questions.

Don't ask questions that could be embarrassing.

Give plenty of time for answers.

Build the conversation with further questions and your own experiences.

Give encouragement and praise.

What is the biggest adventure you have had?

What is your favorite movie? Tell us about it.

My answer: The Princess Bride and Forrest Gump

I have many other movies that I like to re-watch, but these two would be at the top of the list.

Teach English as a Foreign Language

What was your first job?

Start a hubpage

These conversation starters are great ideas for starting a hubpage too!

What was your favorite subject at school?

For languages other than English too

The conversation starters on this lens can help with learning languages other than English. Just translate them and start talking!

© 2011 Peter Murray

How do you start a conversation?

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    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      8 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @TeacherSerenia: Yes I followed the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup.

      Learning Turkish can be easy when you know the Turkish alphabet. It is phonetic and so once you know the sounds of the letters, the words are usually easy to say and read. The "curly things under the letters" (cedilla) give the letter a different sound for example: "Ã" has a "CH" sound. See for an excellent guide to Turkish pronunciation.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      9 years ago

      You know the All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup, right? For the second time - the first time being the first ever world cup back in 1987. Australia came in 3rd place - NZ beat France in the final.

      I would love to learn the turkish language but all those curly things under the letters (do not ask me what they are called) makes it look and sound hard!!!

    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      10 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @magicgeniewishl: Thanks. Glad you like it.

    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      10 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @mivvy: My Turkish reading and writing is better than my speaking. I miss a lot of the suffixes and so mistakenly talk about myself or the person I am talking to in the third person.

    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      10 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @Board-Game-Brooke: Thanks. You should come and visit Turkey. It is a beautiful place, the food is wonderful and the people are very hospitable.

    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      10 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @ChrisDay LM: Thanks. The conversation starters on this lens are not for the level of first meeting people, but for the next level of getting to know them better and helping them to overcome their fear of speaking in a foreign language.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      10 years ago

      Hi & how are you (in whatever tongue) is always a good starter. Not very original tho'. Great lens thanks

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      10 years ago from US/TN

      I've never been to Turkey but I've heard it's very beautiful. I admire you for learning a new language!

    • mivvy profile image


      10 years ago

      My biggest (one of the many) adventure was travelling in east Turkey. I am/was learning Turkish. Reading is not too difficult but speaking is. I always miss the infixes and miss negations.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens :)

    • petermurray profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Murray 

      10 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      @AllyVuitton: Thanks for the blessing. My team of web programmers are not socialy awkward, but our office is very quiet and they need all the encouragement they can get to communicate.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've never been socially awkward, so words just flow out. But for all those great, but what-should-i-say people, this lens has been blessed!


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