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How to Learn Spanish through Popular Games

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Tired of playing on your phone? Go look for your favourite old games and bring them back to life! Today we are going to discover how we can learn Spanish through popular games that we’ve always played!

Before we start, I would like to emphasise the importance of play in foreign language learning. This process requires a lot of hard work and maintaining our motivation can sometimes be tricky. There is a common perception that the learning process should be serious, and that if one is laughing or having fun, then it is not really learning.

Games are often used as an activity when there is some time left at the end of lessons. In No Panic Spanish we cannot emphasise enough the importance of having fun while learning a language. This can occur in many ways, either through listening to music, watching films or playing games.

How can play benefit language learning? Lengeling and Malarcher (1997), Doctors in Language Studies, observed that playing games can influence several aspects:

  • Affective: Games encourage creative and spontaneous use of language; they promote the communicative competence and, at the same time, are motivating and fun.
  • Cognitive: Games reinforce, review and extend learning.
  • Class dynamics: Games are extremely student-centred, so the teacher acts as a mere facilitator. They can also promote health competition and foster class participation.
  • Adaptability: Games can be easily adjusted to the age, level, and interests of our pupils and, in the majority of the cases, they require little preparation.

Today you’ll discover how we can learn Spanish through popular games. An advantage of using board games in the Spanish classroom is that we all know how they work! Ready to play?

#1. Jenga

For those of you that haven’t discovered Jenga yet, it is a game of physical skill where the objective is to build the highest tower. For that, you will need to remove one block at a time and then place it on top of the tower, thus creating a more unstable construction.

How can we learn Spanish with it? Write a question in Spanish on each block (you must think that’d be really time-consuming, but I was done in 20 minutes!) You can adapt the questions according to the level of the players. For instance, for my 15-year-old students I wrote questions like, “¿Cuáles serían tus vacaciones ideales?” (What your ideal holidays would look like?) or “Menciona cinco países donde se hable español” (Mention five countries where Spanish is spoken). Every time that a player removes a block, they also have to answer the question that is written there, or they can ask a classmate. Students not only have a great time, but they also practice their speaking competence in Spanish.

You can make the questions as varied as you want. I would recommend general conversation questions so that the game can be reused as many times as possible.

#2. ¿Quién es quién? (Guess who?)

It’s time to bring back your childhood memories! Guess who? Is one of the most popular games that can be turned into a great learning resource. Apart from being a very entertaining game, it is ideal to practise lexicon related to physical descriptions and clothes.

You can play in the classic way, by just asking Yes/No questions to your opponent, such as:

“¿Tiene el pelo largo?

¿Es una chica?

¿Lleva gafas?”

Another idea could be just trying to describe the different characters. For instance, we could ask how they are dressed like, and even about aspects that we cannot see, such as their personality, jobs, hobbies, etc. Just give free rein to your imagination!

#3. Scrabble

Scrabble was a table game created by Alfred Butts in 1948 that has become one of the most popular games in language lessons. Basically, players have to create words of three letters or more. Every letter has got a different value, therefore the punctuation obtained from every word will depend on the letters that we have used. The letters’ position on the board is also importance since there are squares that allow you to double or triple your score. Scrabble can be an excellent game to practice spelling or to revise Spanish vocabulary.

If you think that is too difficult for your level, don’t panic! You can start playing with a higher number of letters, such as 8 or 9. In this way, it will be easier to create words.

Besides forming words, we can also use this game to explain the meaning of the words on the board, spell them, or use them in sentences.

#4. Lotería

Lotería (Spanish word for “lottery”) is a traditional Mexican game similar to Bingo. However, lotería replaces numbers with Spanish words and pictures, making it a great game to learn and revise vocabulary.

Playing Lotería can be a fun break from heavy Spanish studying that still builds on reading as well as listening skills.

Because of its great, colourful images, we can also use the boards to practise key Spanish vocabulary, such as descriptions, sizes, colours, etc. We could also ask our students to choose a table and come up with a story that involves all items in it. This would encourage speaking improvisation in the classroom. At the same time, this is a great strategy that prepares students for unusual questions in speaking exams.

#5. Conecta 4 (Connect 4)

One of the most popular games from our childhood!

We could play it according to the original rules. The only change is that before a player can take their turn, they must flip over a card. Here we could include pictures to describe, words to be translated or added into a sentence, questions about the Hispanic culture… If the player answers correctly, they get their turn. If they are incorrect, it is the next person’s turn. It is a very simple idea but your students will beg for it!

That’s all, amigos! I hope you got some new ideas about how to teach or learn Spanish through popular games. ¡Hasta la próxima!

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