How to spark up meaningful conversations with 17 easy to adapt questions

Imagine you meet your friend Marina for a coffee in downtown Athens.

You hug and cheerfully comment about how long it has been since you last met.

You sit down and order coffee at a small, busy coffee shop.

She asks you about your news and how is your family doing. You tell her a bit about your trip and your parents, your partner…

Marina eagerly goes ahead and asks you about the problem you had at work, the new hobby you had mentioned on Facebook, the book you had recommended … She can’t wait to catch up with you.

So far everything looks good, doesn’t it? But let’s zoom in a bit more to this dialogue.

Both Marina and you are interested in one another’s lives, you want to hear news, give your opinion about significant matters, talk about hobbies, suggest new books or movies.

However, if you look closer you’ll find that she’s the one asking questions and you’re the one giving answers.

Recall your last conversation in Greek. Is this what happened?

While Marina knows you and likes you, the communication between you and her seems imbalanced. You might be:

  • feeling interrogated, even with Marina’s best intentions

  • struggling to keep up with the pace of a native speaker

  • switching to English often in order to communicate better


Speaking is not necessarily communicating

You’ve probably heard and experienced that speaking in the language you learn is the hardest of all skills.

But is it speaking, or rather communicating that is hard?

Because when you speak, you have the task of forming a sentence.

But when you communicate, you have the tasks of:

  • listening

  • understanding

  • nodding, using body language

  • giving your opinion or comment

  • asking back

And it’s this last one action that determines whether the conversation keeps on going or not.

Imagine that “asking back” is like a hook: It gives both people the opportunity to connect their thoughts and eventually be connected with each other.

If your part in talking lacks the hook, then your Greek friend has nowhere to hang their thoughts.

In Greek, we use the very fitting word “συνομιλητής, συνομιλήτρια”, to describe the people who interact in a conversation (in this case, your Greek friend).

According to the Dictionary , συνομιλητής means the person who co-talks with another person (coming from συν-ομιλώ).

In English the word translates as interlocutor (although I’m not sure how common this word is to express anyone who takes part in any kind of conversing: from short, casual chats to deep, long conversations.)

In Practice

So, how are you going to bring a conversation back to life? How will you show you are curious and eager to find out more about your friend’s life and to show them you’re genuinely interested in them?

By simply asking them.

This is something we automatically do in our own language - and this is one of the reasons you or your friend switch to English/ the language you are both comfortable speaking - but we tend to avoid it in the language we learn.

This might happen for many reasons:

  • we freeze, expecting the native speaker to hold the conversation for both of us

  • we try to say as many things as we can, taking advantage of the fact that we can eventually speak the language with someone after months of lessons, therefore we get carried away

  • we have difficulty in forming questions, because they require a different structure in the sentence

  • we become so self-conscious, that we strive for perfection, which means putting more effort and time to form a proper reply, then we’re too exhausted to attempt a question

  • we can’t keep up with the pace of the conversation and eventually stick to replying only.

To save time and probably some headache as to how to form questions that will enliven your conversations with your Greek friends or relatives, here’s a list of the most common ones:

Questions about their opinion or advice:

  1. Πώς σου φαίνεται/φάνηκε ο/η/το …; How does it seem/looks like to you?

  2. Ποια είναι η γνώμη σου για ..; What’s your opinion about …?

  3. Τι θα με συμβούλευες να …; What would you advise me to …?

  4. Πού προτείνεις να πάμε για …; Where do you suggest we go to …?

  5. Εσύ, τι θα έκανες στη θέση μου; And you, what would you do if you were me …?

  6. Τι νομίζεις /τι λες /τι πιστεύεις για …; What do you think/say/believe about …?

    Questions about life events, current news:

  7. Κι εσύ τι …; And you what …(insert the same verb they just used to ask about you)?

  8. Πώς πήγε ο/η/το …; How did it go?

  9. Και τι τους είπες; Και τι έκανες; And what did you tell them? What did you do?

  10. Και μετά τι έγινε; And then, what happened?

  11. Μου έλεγες για …. Τι γίνεται τώρα; Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα; You were telling me about … What’s going on now? How do things go?

    Questions about personal stories, habits and hobbies:

  12. Πού γνωριστήκατε με τον/την …; Where did you meet …?

  13. Τι συνηθίζετε να κάνετε σ’αυτή τη γιορτή/ημέρα/περίσταση; What do you usually do on this celebration/(special) day/occasion?

  14. Εσένα, ποιος συγγραφέας / ηθοποιός κτλ σου αρέσει; And how about you, which writer/actor do you like?

  15. Εσένα ποιο βιβλίο / ποια ταινία σου άρεσε; And how about you, which book/movie did you like?

  16. Τι κάνει ο / η / το …; How is …?

    A question to offer help with something:

  17. Έχεις πολλή δουλειά; Χρειάζεσαι βοήθεια; Are you busy? Do you need any help?

Don’t skip the study part!

I love lists but only if they bring a meaning to your learning. Stacking one sentence after the next will not help you; using them meaningfully, will.

Find here some bonus ideas about how to eventually add them to your conversations:

  • When you record yourself speaking, always remember to add a few questions in between

  • Use them as a foundation and add more words, creating your own varieties. For example, you might want to ask: Τι νομίζεις για (την παράσταση στο θέατρο ΑΒΓ); or Μου έλεγες για (το ατύχημα που είχες). Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα τώρα;

  • When you chat on social media or via any private chat with your friends, add a question for every question you receive or initiate the conversation by asking them first. Because chat and social media is less direct than actual conversation, but more direct than emails or cards for example, you can take advantage of the time you need to form sentences but also enjoy a chat at a live or almost live time. In fact, this is what we do in our small, chatty Facebook group which you can find here. Join us!

Practice, practice, practice. To make meaningful discussions and connect with the other person (your “συνομιλητή”/ “συνομιλήτρια”), questions need to be part of your speaking.

Similarly to learning vocabulary and everyday phrases, you need to learn how to make questions in order to organically add them in any conversation.

Try it today and let me know how it goes with a comment below!


Do you feel inspired to chat more? Then join our small & friendly Facebook group here.


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A New Route To Speaking Better Greek: 5 Simple And Steady Steps

I’m all for hidden gems.

Little coffee shops, bookshops in tiny, colourful alleys, a secret beach with emerald waters or a local family bakery that leads you there just by the smell of fresh baked bread.

They all have this one thing in common: Few people know about them because it’s hard to get there.

And to get there, we often assume we need a map. A map with a well-thought route. To get there, we often think there is only one way, otherwise it’s easy to get lost.

You see the problem here, don’t you?

Every time I found a hidden gem - a bookshop, a beach, a coffee shop in a small πλατεία far from crowds and noise - it wasn’t because I followed the same route.

It was because I was led there by curiosity, excitement and a sense of adventure. No mistake, hidden gems want to be found this way and they will compensate you with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

By the way, there is nothing more annoying than the person next to you who holds the map and tells you  “no, we must go this way, this is the one and only way!”

Let’s take this analogy to language learning - because, why not?

You say to yourself: “I want to speak Greek! How I wish there was a person sitting next to me right now, so I could practice. How I wish I were at a Greek café happily chatting. It’s just so bad I can’t practice what I learn, because I don’t have anyone to talk to”.

Okay I might have added a little Greek drama here. While I’m sure you’d love to be at a Greek café right now and while I’m sure you do want someone to talk to in Greek, things don’t look so grim.

It’s true we often think there’s only one way to practice speaking and that is: talking with a native speaker.

Just like the person who stubbornly persists on the one and only way to get to the hidden gem/tiny bookshop/secret beach (and spoils all the fun), we convince ourselves that there’s no other way around it: in order to improve our speaking, we must speak with a Greek.

But it makes me a bit sad thinking that all other skills in language are gifted with creative ways of practicing them - but not poor speaking. Which is, usually, the skill most of us want to practice and use as soon as possible.

We can write on our textbook or even journal in Greek whenever we want, read an article in Greek if we feel like it, pick a song we like or watch a TV show ...but how can we speak daily?

So, we’re left with fill in the blank activities, yes or no answers, reading and writing texts and an overall disorientation, which leads us far from our destination (the hidden gem of speaking).

What if we could do things a bit differently? What if we could take another, not so obvious way and be a bit brave and adventurous about it? What if we could actually say out loud those new expressions we’ve learned, the new vocabulary we studied, the couple of new phrases we’ve noted down?

What if we could imitate speaking to someone?

A few years ago I was introduced to this idea for practicing speaking: Recordings.

It’s so simple, really.

You basically record yourself speaking the language.

I’ve tried it too with English and a bit with Dutch and here’s what I found:

Recordings are great. They can make an amazing speaking practice. But only if done right.

I challenge you today to record yourself speaking Greek after you read this article. But let me share first a few things I’ve learned along the way. They’ll help you stay focused and keep this activity simple.

#1 Consistency

As with all our learning, consistency is key. Recordings are no exception and we need to use them a few times to include them in our way of studying.

We’ll find that it gets easier as we go and that at the end of the month or the trimester we have a solid amount of recordings, a proof of our progress and learning.

Now, don’t think I’m talking about a rigid schedule here. I’m by no means a strict schedule person when it comes to enjoying a language (some people might enjoy the strict study schedule, I don’t).

Just remember to record yourself a few times to get used to it and then it will organically become part of your learning.

By staying consistent you’ll have the advantage of actually monitoring your progress.

#2 Self-confidence

With monitoring in mind, recordings can boost our self-confidence.

I bet you’ll find it miraculous how on recording no1 you stumbled on this and that expression but recording no10 you used them without even thinking about them.

It’s gratifying and makes you want to move on. And because it’s like a rehearsal in a quiet studio, it gives you the time to practice and repeat words, expressions and pronunciation you want to get right in an actual discussion.

#3 Focus

You might be asking: What should I talk about? Well, think of this: What do you want to talk about? How can you find the right vocabulary around that topic? Is there a question you‘d like to answer or even a topic for discussion you’d like to analyze a bit?

A mistake I made with my recordings - and I don’t want you to make too - was that I just started talking about whatever came to my mind, without a plan.

Although this might be okay for some learners, for me it wasn’t motivating.

Choosing one thing or topic helps you stay focused, make more efficient connections between the new or revised words & their meaning and reduces the overwhelm of trying to include everything in one sitting.

#4 Realistic expectations

Imagine if I were downtown, looking for the aforementioned little coffee shop. Would I expect to find the secret beach with the emerald waters? Of course not. Even hidden gems have their limitations.

But it’s easy to get excited and say  “Oh, recordings! Great idea. Yes, I’ll do this!” and then imagine yourself talking and talking only to find out later that you can barely speak on the recorder for one minute.

One minute is surprisingly a lot, by the way. Instagram videos, for example, are one minute long, yet they fit in so much information.

Start with small steps. Talk about one specific topic or question. Use a certain number of words or expressions. Take advantage of the time you have in front of the recorder to say what you want to say without interruptions and with no one listening.

#5 Be brave

Now, I’m one of those people who usually panic behind the mic or the camera. It’s just what happens, even when no one’s listening!

What I realized however is that the voice that terrifies me the most, is the voice of my perfectionism.

Recordings are meant to be liberating. But when this little voice creeps in, we freeze and then start the negative self-talk.

If you find yourself in a vicious cycle of hitting play - stop - delete, be brave and push a bit more. It’s the point where you need to allow yourself accept your mistakes and embrace your imperfections.

And when this happens just between you and the recorder, you know you’re a step closer to your hidden gem of speaking in real-life situations.

So go ahead and record yourself today.

Remember to:

  1. Be consistent with this new activity

  2. Monitor your progress and gain some precious self-confidence along the way

  3. Focus on just one thing

  4. Be realistic about your expectations

  5. Be brave and move past your perfectionism

Are you ready?

Let me know how it went!


And how about sharing your experience with like-minded peers in our small and friendly community of Greek language enthusiasts?


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2 Strategies To Keep The Conversation Flowing

Have you ever wished you could speak Greek the way you wanted to in just one day?

Even if we don’t admit it, as much as we enjoy the process of learning, we sometimes act as if it’s possible to learn everything.

We dive into a sea of unknown vocabulary, pile up expression after expression, get lost in a forest of new meanings and nuances.

Courageous? Yes, definitely.

Helpful? Not always.

And then there’s overwhelm and loss of motivation.

How to keep going? How to keep talking?

When we explore the idea of a slow learning process, where the slow language journey doesn’t seem scary anymore, we come to realize the need to navigate the area: We need a compass.

And that’s because you’ve already covered the foundation of the Greek language and you expect to put your learning in use:

  • Put the words in meaningful sentences

  • Understand what you hear in a conversation

  • Reply back

  • Be part of an engaging conversation

And this is what the compass is here for.

To help you with 2 strategies to use, when you still feel your Greek is not “there” yet.

Now, a note about this apparently generic and a bit simplified definition. You’ve noticed I didn’t say “when you’re a Beginner/Intermediate etc” or “when you hold the A1, B2, C1 etc. CEFR level”.

Levels and categories are all useful and give us some information about our learning.

But if we feel we can’t talk the way we want to, or we can’t express our ideas and thoughts and can’t have the pleasure of a chat or a conversation, then levels don’t mean much.

In fact, we might get stuck behind the labels.

But back to our strategies: here’s how they help us find our focus and make connection with the person we talk to - and also our self.


Focus on what’s meaningful to you

Imagine you knew every single word in your own language.

Would you use them all in a conversation? You might had never had the chance to use them all in a lifetime.

I believe language is as alive as we are. The words we use are weaved into our existence and experience.

When we talk about things we like or don’t like doing, when we talk about our schedule, as exciting or boring as it can be or about our feelings, ideas and beliefs, all these words come to life.

And we share this glimpse of our life with the person we talk to.

We let the person zoom into our life and our thoughts.

The same way we don’t talk about everything under the sun, we’re not obliged to learn everything under the sun. We’re free to choose our focus.

When we realize we have a choice in our learning, this is when the magic happens.

We allow ourselves to narrow down and target the areas that are relevant to our life. We then focus even more on the things we mostly talk about.

And then we break the steps down: we don’t just learn the vocabulary with soulless repetition activities (we might use them, yes, but not rely on them), we invite the words in our world, we dig deeper in their meanings, we make them ours.

By focusing on one area, one topic or theme, we’re eventually able to make the connections in multiple levels:

  • connections between root words which helps us form associations, vital to our learning (For more on why and how this is effective, read this great, geeky article here)

  • connections to our own experience, describing what this one area means to us

  • connections to the person or people we talk to, as we find common ground or hear a completely different experience

For example, let’s say you’re a person who lives in the city, you like long strolls out in nature, you’re a science fiction writer and your hobby is photography. You also dislike cooking and are not interested in fashion.

How would you prioritize your learning?

Talking about cooking or learning a long list of words about clothes won’t make much sense to you when you feel you still need to find the right words to make a conversation about things that matter to you.

Focus on what you need, then focus some more and then break it down in small, practical steps.

Jazz up the chat with questions

When we feel we can’t use the language the way we wish in a chat with a native speaker, we tend to answer to their questions but avoid making questions.

It could be because we’re not fast enough as the conversation goes on.

Or because we become so shy, we’d rather hide instead of keep being in the conversation.

On the other hand, it might be because we‘re eager to practice, so, subconsciously, we want to take advantage of the opportunity and talk as much as we can.

What this means though, is that the other person starts losing their interest in the chat.

They don’t get any sign you’re interested in them so they stop talking.

Spicing up a conversation doesn’t necessarily require a perfect use of vocabulary or grammar.

Yes, you might stumble. You might forget. This doesn’t need to bewilder you.

Showing your genuine interest to the person you talk to - that’s what makes a good conversation.

And the way to do that is with questions about them.

You might have noticed that in the Greek culture personal questions such as asking about the family or the origin, are not uncommon between people who meet for the first time and they’ve been chatting for a while.

And by origin I mean the grandparents’ birthplace which is usually a village (χωριό) or island (νησί).

So don’t hesitate to break the ice by asking (or asking back) about someone’s family or birthplace for example.

Questions help us to balance the conversation, especially when we still have limited vocabulary or when we still hesitate too much to use it.

Don’t forget them. Sprinkle them in your next chat. They’ll give you a delicious sense of accomplishment.



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The Miracle of A Slow Learning Process: How Accepting Slow Helps You Progress Faster

Julia started learning Greek about a year ago.

It was “love at first sight”: she loved the musicality of the language, the expressive gestures people made when they spoke, the openness of the people she met.

Julia couldn’t wait to chat in Greek. To indulge in the sounds and expressions she had learned. To have a nice, warm conversation with a friendly person.

“Next trip”, she told herself “I’ll be chatting in Greek”.

But words wouldn’t come so easy. They seemed to get tangled in her tongue.

Julia felt that every time she was trying to start a chat with a local, her own brain sabotaged her.

The Miracle Of A Slow Learning Process : How Accepting Slow helps Your Progress Faster | Danae Florou - Alpha Beta Greek

Why couldn’t she keep up with the conversation’s pace? Why couldn’t she reply fast enough?

“It’s impossible” she thought.

Nothing she did was helping her to speak the way she dreamed.

She found herself fed up with grammar.

She blamed herself for not having a good memory to remember enough vocabulary. “After all, I’m not a school girl anymore”, she thought.

She felt discouraged. And often, ready to give up.

Why, oh why was this so hard?

Wish I could learn faster

Have you ever wished you could learn faster and then blamed yourself for taking so much time to speak Greek?

When I was learning Spanish, many years ago, I took an intensive course. 3 times a week, 3 hours each.

(I wanted to learn Spanish fast, that’s for sure.)

I loved Spanish and I still do. The sounds, the rhythm, the similar expressions to Greek and of course the people and the beautiful country. Maravilloso!

I expected to speak “fluently” within 6 months. I bought books, a new notebook, a shiny dictionary. I never missed a class and religiously did my homework.

What happened instead is, halfway down the road, I quit.

There are many reasons why I did that (the lack of a specific goal is one) but the frustrating feeling of not speaking as “fluently” as I wanted, as quickly as I wanted, was something I could not accept.

I was absolutely not OK with a slow process. The expectation of “fluency in 6 months” had ultimately cut my wings.

But, as much as I wished to “get there” faster, the process itself seemed to have a timer of its own.

And no matter how much I pushed, having a meaningful conversation with the locals wasn’t something that needed pushing.

In hindsight, not accepting a slow learning process means that:

1. We start having negative feelings towards the lesson, the language, the teacher

2. These feelings prohibit us from keep progressing

3. Sadly, we quit.

It’s not laziness and it’s not a race either

Like Julia with Greek and like my impatient self with Spanish, we sentence ourselves to a race.

Learning Greek can be love at first sight, yes, but as in real life this love might blind us. So much so, that expectations can be as high as getting married after the first date.

Can’t happen.

This is what we don’t realize:

  • A slow process doesn’t mean lazy, never studying between lessons or never keeping yourself on schedule (then miraculously expecting to speak).

  • Slow doesn’t mean lacking consistency, therefore taking months to progress over a single thing (then blaming yourself for not being as intelligent as others).

  • Slow doesn’t even mean focusing very hard on the aspect of the language that is irrelevant to your goal (for example grammar instead of practicing speaking).

On the contrary.

It means realizing it’s a process that needs its time, like a journey from place A to place B.

And in this journey, there are many things involved: motivation, effort, persistence, consistency, focus but also failure, mistakes, embarrassment - and you still need to move forward.

Above all, slow means permission: Give permission to yourself to learn step by step, every day, even if your steps are tiny.

What happens when you accept slow?

The fact that most of us live in a culture that appreciates fast and easy learning over slow and meaningful is something that you might have experienced too.

But do we realize what this idea is doing to us?

It turns us into competitors of our own self.

It creates unreachable expectations.

It fills us with sadness when we can’t enjoy the process anymore, the one we started in the first place out of pure enjoyment, enthusiasm and a mysterious, deep connection with the language we loved (and the country, and its people…).

So, what happens when we accept slow?

What happens when instead of putting on our fancy running shoes, we choose our most comfortable, the ones that allow us to walk miles while looking around and enjoying the view:

Overwhelm turns into anticipation.

Disappointment into acceptance.

And frustration into fulfillment.

It seems to me after all, that when we learn a language, we are not either fast or slow learners. It’s a completely different idea:

When we realize and accept how slow the whole learning process is, when we embrace it, this is when progress happens.

It is a miracle, isn’t it?


Looking for more inspiration?

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54 Short But Mighty Everyday Words and Phrases

It’s about the little things: The simple, everyday words you need to use right away. The short, quirky, little phrases you don't know how to structure in Greek. Here's the truth: there's no time for translation apps when the conversation keeps going. You just need to know what to say.

9 confidence boosting tips to improve your speaking in Greek [Guest Post]

I’ve been an introvert person and in the past, I found it hard to speak in a foreign language. “What would they think of me? What if I say something wrong? What if they don’t understand me because of my accent?”, I used to ask myself many of these painful questions.
After years of practice, I discovered some techniques to boost my self-confidence and I’m thrilled to share them in this post.