“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela

Learning a new language is quite challenging, which is why more and more children are being taught foreign languages from a young age.

The growth of the TEFL market just goes to show how popular learning English as a foreign language is. Similarly, the ERASMUS programme’s growth would suggest that students have an interest in learning foreign languages and experiencing foreign cultures.

Students learning English, Spanish, French, German, etc. can learn a lot more effectively if they’re having fun so let’s have a look at learning languages through play.

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Learning English as a Foreign Language

Almost every country in the world teaches its students foreign languages and English is the most widely taught second language in the world.

Can you teach English with games?
English is taught all over the world and it's taught way more effectively with games. (Source: annemcdon)

As the de facto international language, English can help students to:

  • Travel the world more easily
  • Learn about English-speaking cultures
  • Maintain international academic and professional relationships
  • Take their first steps towards learning foreign languages

Studying English can be quite easy for some students as the grammar and conjugations might be easier than their mother tongue.

It’s important to understand, however, that there are a lot of exceptions and peculiarities in the English language that can make having a conversation in the language very difficult for non-natives.

Then there’s the vocabulary. The English language has a huge vocabulary and students need to know when and how to use each word. Fortunately, students can learn English vocabulary with simple card games as games can help them to work on their memory, pronunciation, accent, and learn more about the language while having fun.

Here are a few games that teachers could use in EFL lessons:

  • Pictionary
  • 20 Questions
  • Taboo
  • Hangman

There are no limits to what can be a game, either.

Learn more about using games in language lessons

Learning Spanish with Games

Spanish is one of the most popular foreign languages for students to learn as it’s spoken in many places around the world.

Can you teach Spanish with games?
Adults and children alike enjoy learning through play so try to involve games in your language lessons. (Source: natureaddict)

Students can learn vocabulary through games and everyday situations like:

  • Getting dressed
  • Visiting a city
  • Introductions
  • Conversations
  • Ordering food
  • Shopping

Similarly, visiting Spanish-speaking countries can help!

Any student of any age can learn more effectively by having fun.

Would you like to learn how to count in Spanish?

Take a deck of cards and play a game of War or Battle. Battle just has two players going head-to-head allowing them to practise numbers in their target language.

The game of Happy Families is also useful for teaching students vocabulary relating to family members, which could also be the introduction to the topic and the related vocabulary.

By learning through play, students often won’t even realise how much they’re learning until they have to use the target vocabulary in a real-life situation.

Your turn!

Learn about the advantages of studying foreign languages with games

Using Games to Learn French

There are plenty of fun ways to learn French. You can either use games specifically designed to teach French or adapt more general games to teach students French.

Can you teach French through games?
Students learn far more effectively when they're awake so include engaging activities like games in your lessons. (Source: 12019)

French teachers regularly introduce games to teach their students the language and popular games include crosswords and puzzles.

Scrabble is also a useful game for practising the language as long as you use the right version of the game.

Time’s Up is also a popular game in French lessons with the goal of the game is to have your team guess as many celebrities as possible. There are many variations of this game and can easily be played without the boxed game itself. Encouraging students to use their target language to describe people is a useful exercise and can also result in hilarious and fun moments.

Smaller children can also listen to podcasts, nursery rhymes, or fairytales to practise their lessons and there are actually plenty of podcasts in different languages for very young listeners.

There are also apps where students can practise their target language through stories or even act out their own stories where they can also write their own stories and act them out in front of their classmates. This could be a fun way for young learners to express themselves while also using their language skills.

Check out the most enjoyable ways to learn foreign languages

Regional and Minority Languages

There are also plenty of regional and minority languages that students might be learning.

Can you teach minority languages with games?
As minority languages tend to have fewer resources available, learning through playing games is a great idea. (Source: pasja1000)

Whether it’s a language commonly spoken where they live or just through an interest in the language, there’s no reason why games can’t be used to teach these fascinating languages. In the UK and Ireland, there are several regional and minority languages that students could learn:

  • Welsh
  • Scottish Gaelic
  • Irish
  • Scots
  • Cornish
  • Manx
  • Ulster-Scots

In some areas, there’s been a boom in local and regional languages as people want to reconnect with their roots, speak with more members of their community, or revive languages that were dying. In these areas, there are language schools popping up and more speakers of these languages offering lessons and tutorials.

There’s no reason these languages need to be taught differently from other languages, which means the same teaching approaches can still be used. Of course, there’s the bonus that students can also learn a lot about the culture of these languages and all of the games we mentioned earlier can also be used to teach foreign languages regardless of how many native speakers they have.

The main difference is that with minority languages, teachers will have a greater opportunity to teach students about the culture as it’ll be more centralised than with languages with speakers across several countries and continents.

In any case, languages are easier to learn if you’re having fun and you just have to develop and fun and entertaining way to engage the students with the learning process.

Games also make students active participants in the learning process and give them more agency over how they learn foreign languages.
Similarly, it allows students to learn from one another and can give the teacher a bit of a breather or provide them with an opportunity to focus on students who may be struggling while students comfortable with the task can get on with it.

Are you ready to give games a go in your language classes?

You won’t regret it!

Learn how to make your language lessons more fun

If you need some help, why not get some from a private tutor on Superprof?

Whether you're looking to improve your language skills or learn new teaching approaches, private tutoring is an excellent way to learn exactly what you want, when you want.

On the Superprof website, you can find tutors offering face-to-face tutoring, group classes, or online tutoring and each comes with some important advantages and disadvantages you'll want to consider.

Face-to-face tutorials are particularly effective as the tutor will focus on you and your learning, but they'll also tend to charge more per session as they have to plan and tailor each lesson to each student and, in some cases, travel to each of their students' home. Fortunately, you'll get a bespoke learning experience, making these types of lessons among the most cost-effective.

Group tutoring is excellent if you're on a budget and are particularly useful for language lessons. While having a tutor all to yourself to practise your language skills can be useful, having a group of similarly able students in a class allows everyone to practise with different people and learn from one another.

If you can't find any suitable or available tutors in your local area, don't forget that you can always broaden your search to include online tutors from all over the world. With foreign languages, this is also useful as you'll always find greater numbers of tutors teaching the language you want to learn in the country where it's most commonly spoken.

In any case, a lot of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free so try a few of them out before deciding on which one is right for you and what you need to learn. Rather than just contacting every tutor, though, think about what you're looking for in a tutor first, read the reviews from their other students, and check that their lessons are within your budget first.

You could be spending a lot of time with this person so make sure that you get on well with one another and that they have the skills that you're looking for!

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Jess