You’ve decided you want to learn German and you’re going to start speaking from day one. This is great news!
The next question is, how do you start a German conversation?
If you studied language while at school, chances are that your learning consisted of reading page after page from a textbook. While you may have eventually improved your reading skills in whichever language you were studying, most of what you learned doesn’t really transfer very well to real life.
Do you go around asking people how old they are and telling everyone your trousers are blue in your native tongue? Of course not! You want to ask people how they’re feeling, what their interests are. You want to learn about them and their culture. You want to communicate.
I’ve written before about techniques you can use to build your confidence and start a conversation. So for this article, I’ll just dive straight in with sharing the conversation starters you can use.
Let’s dig in!
German Conversation Starters: Breaking the Ice
Need some help starting a conversation in German? I’ve compiled a list of possible scenarios to help you break the ice when striking up a German conversation with a stranger.
The most important thing to remember when starting a conversation is to say something. Once the words start flowing, you never know where you’ll end up.
On the Street
- “Entschuldigung, wie spät ist es?” (“Excuse me, what time is it?”)
- “Wo ist eine Bank?” (Where’s a bank?”)
- “Wie weit ist es?” (“How far is it?”)
- Können Sie es mir (auf der Karte) zeigen?” (“Can you show me (on the map)?”)
At a Train Station
- “Ist dieser Platz frei?” (“Is this seat free?”)
- “Hält dieser Zug in….?” (“Does this train stop at…?”)
- “Wie lange dauert die Fahrt?” (“How long does the trip take?”)
- “Welcher Bahnhof ist das?” (“Which station is this?”)
In a Restaurant
- “Gibt es noch etwas zu essen?” (“Are you still serving food?”)
- “Entschuldigung, kann ich die Karte sehen?” (Excuse me, can I please see the menu?”)
- “Was empfehlen Sie?” (“What would you recommend?”)
- “Haben Sie vegetarisches Essen?” (“Do you have vegetarian food?”)
- “Wie groß sind die Portionen?” (“How big are the portions?”)
- “Kriege ich das auch ohne Tomaten?” (“Can I get that without tomato?”)
- “Ich bin allergisch gegen Nüsse.” (“I’m allergic to nuts.”)
- “Gibt’s auch Nachtisch?” (“Do you have dessert too?”)
- “Das hat hervorragend geschmeckt!” (“That was delicious!”)
- “Können Sie das einpacken?” (“Can you wrap that up to go?”)
German Conversation: Asking After Interests
Once you’ve started a conversation, how can you keep it going?
A good way of doing this is to ask your conversation partner about their interests. You could ask:
- Hast du eine deutsche Lieblingsband? (“Do you have a favourite German band?”)
- Spielst du ein Instrument (“Do you play an instrument”)
- Welche Sportarten magst du? (“Which type of sports do you like?”)
- Was ist dein Lieblingsessen? (“What’s your favourite food?”)
German Conversation on a Night Out
I’m a happily married man, but I still love to get out and meet new people.
When you’re out on the town, here are some German phrases you can use to start a conversation.
- “Was gibt’s vom Fass?” (“What’s on tap?”)
- “Dieses Kleid steht dir sehr gut!” (“That dress looks good on you!”)
- “Ich gebe Ihnen/dir einen aus.” (“I’ll buy you a drink”)
- “Was möchten Sie/du?” (“What would you like?”)
- “Diese Runde geht auf mich.” (“It’s my round.”)
- “Kannst du Billard spielen?” (“Do you know how to play pool/billiards?”)
- “Ich hätte gern Orangensaft, bitte.” (“I’ll have an orange juice, please.)
- “Können Sie Klubs empfehlen?” (“Can you recommend clubs?”)
- “Versuchst du mich anzumachen?” (“Are you trying to pick me up/hit on me?”)
German Conversation Starters: What Are Your Favourites?
How do you practise your conversational German? What are some of your favourite German conversation starters? Let me know in the comments.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.