By Rachel Perez (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
In today’s hyper-connected world, knowing a second language affords many great benefits. From greater connection to friends and family, to an expanded cultural mind, language learning is an important skill.
It is never too early to start learning another language. In fact, helping your child learn a second language encourages them to think of other cultures. And that helps to create an accepting, globally-minded child.
Fortunately, learning a language doesn’t mean boring study guides or dry video lessons. Language learning today is interesting, engaging, and full of fun activities for everyone.
Here are five language learning games and activities for all ages.
Use Flashcards and Matching Games
One of the easiest language learning activities to start with are flashcards. Simple and straightforward, flashcards are highly versatile, not to mention a great educational tool.
There are several ways to use flashcards, besides as a simple study aid. For instance:
- Carry them around for fun flash quizzes while waiting in line with the family.
- Use two decks to create language-based picture matching games.
- Flip them upside down to create memory-building matching games.
Foreign language flashcards provide quick and easy access to spelling, grammar, and translations. As well, they’re a fun and engaging method of memorizing keywords and phrases. With daily use, everyone’s language skills improve, even with some simple flashcard games.
There are plenty of places to find foreign language flashcards. Download some beginner’s flashcards here. Search for specific cards online, or head to your favorite bookstore. As handy as they are, pick up several sets and place them around the house.
One can never have too many flashcards.
Consider Favorite Shows, Movies, and Books as Tools
Above all, language learning should be comfortable. Trying to learn a language without the passion for doing so is difficult. This is even more so for younger learners.
A great way to stoke that passion is to use entertainment to teach a language. Turn your family’s existing favorite TV shows into language tools. Switch the language to your target language and turn on the English subtitles. This is a great way to encourage language learning, without making it a chore.
Every day, set aside time to watch a show, read a book, or listen to music in another language. Today’s common entertainment services already feature several language-teaching shows. PBS Kids is one such service, offering several fun shows that focus on foreign languages and cultures. These shows include:
- Alma’s Way
- Let’s Go, Luna!
- Molly of Denali
- Sesame Street
- Rosie’s Rules
In addition to TV shows, pick up some easy-to-read books in the target language. These provide simple translations and instructions for easy reading and comprehension.
Older readers can pick up foreign copies of their favorite literature. Read along and study the translations of the lines you already know. This is a great way to connect a foreign language to your existing knowledge.
Try Speaking and Spelling Games
For a more hands-on approach, try spelling games to encourage language speaking.
A great way to focus on speaking and pronunciation is through foreign language charades. Encourage all to speak in the target language, including the list of words to act out. Those guessing the answer must respond in the appropriate language. Otherwise, the other team has a chance to answer correctly and steal the points.
If teaching younger children, use simple counting and spelling games to reinforce a foreign language. Repetition is a great way to build knowledge passively. Simply make time every day to encourage foreign language skills.
Mad Libs is another excellent game that focuses on both writing and speaking. Creating the story requires spelling and grammar knowledge. Meanwhile, reading the story encourages pronunciation and fluency, in addition to working on a more natural-sounding speaking pattern.
These downloadable Mad Libs sheets provide fun story bases in French and Spanish. Help your kids hone their spelling and vocabulary by encouraging new stories every time.
Use Existing Games for Language Learning
Your family’s favorite games make great language learning tools, as well. Scrabble, Pictionary, and even Guess Who? provide endless hours of language skill-building.
For most games, simply speak your target language as you play. For example:
- Ask your Guess Who? questions in the foreign language.
- Use foreign tile sets and scores when playing Scrabble.
- Speak and spell in the foreign language during Pictionary rounds.
Like other common forms of entertainment, switching to a foreign language is often simple. Younger learners may require extra help and guidance. With repetition, though, favorite family games become awesome language tools.
For a more direct approach, look for games designed to teach second languages. Some games, like Kloo and Polyglot, teach you languages as you play. These games feature easy-to-follow instructions to teach spelling, grammar, and how to read in that language.
The best part is that they’re just as fun as they are educational. Kids and adults can find hours of entertainment from these language-learning games, making them perfect additions to the family game night schedule.
Find Pen Pals and Foreign Friends
For a more old-school approach, consider finding a foreign friend. In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, searching for a pen pal is easier than ever.
Several organizations exist to help kids and young learners connect with others worldwide. These focus on child safety as much as education. With such stringent security, the kids are free to focus on making friends and expanding their cultural appreciation.
Finding a pen pal as an older learner is an excellent teaching tool. Not only does it allow one to speak with a native speaker, but pen pals also create the sharing of ideas and cultures. And today’s volatile world needs as much friendly sharing as possible.
These downloadable activity sheets contain many introductory phrases to help you learn more about a new pen pal. They also help answer common questions that your pen pal may have about you.
Learning another language has immense cultural and practical benefits. However, it is often daunting to start, and even more so for younger learners. Eliminate that unease and turn to games to help lighten the task.
Use familiar games like Scrabble to add language skills to your usual schedule. Or, find a pen pal to help your kids become globally-minded children. Even watching your favorite film or TV show in another language will help boost your skills and open your mind to an entire world of knowledge.