You want to learn French outside of the classroom but don’t really know how? Tired of studying only from books and looking for fun new ways to assimilate the French language?
Play games instead! Here are a series of activities to make French learning fun!
DIY Games and Activities to Learn French Vocabulary
Is reading French newspapers too boring for you, or are you still a beginner? Here are a few games aimed at improving your French vocabulary.
Memory or Matching Game (for beginners)
A more playful way of using flash cards! You can make your own Memory game by either buying blank memory cards or using index cards. You will only be writing on one side of the cards.
- Create matching pairs by writing French words and their English translation on two separate cards. Do this until you have thirty-six cards in total.
- Find a partner (or several) to play with.
- Mix the cards up as thoroughly as possible.
- Place them face down in a 6 x 6 grid.
- The youngest player starts by uncovering one card.
- He or she can then uncover a second card. If the words match, they can take up the pair and try again.
- If they don’t, both cards are turned face down once more.
- The turn then goes to the next player who can uncover two cards.
- The round goes to the player with the most matching pairs.
The trick is to remember where all the cards are as they are uncovered, so you can find a match quickly. Don’t forget to have a dictionary handy in case someone contests a translation pair!
Also, you might want to make more than thirty-six cards to keep it interesting. Just make sure that you store them in pairs (with paper clips, for example) so you can just pick eighteen vocabulary pairs for your next game.
Hangman (Intermediate level)
Ever get bored in your French classes and played Hangman with your neighbour? Why not do it with French words instead? Here are the rules for those who have never played it.
- One of you chooses a basic French word. Because we are still learning the French language, that person can give the main category it’s in (baked goods, article of clothing, furniture, verb, etc.)
- Then he or she puts down how many letters it is.
- The other person must guess the word. He or she can ask if a letter of the alphabet is in the word.
- If he guessed correctly, you must write it down in its proper place.
If he didn't, someone gets hanged. For each wrong letter or wrong guess of the word, a line is drawn to make first the scaffold, then the noose, then each of the limbs of the stick man who is being hanged. If the stick man is finished before the word is guessed, he is hanged and the player who chose the word won. If the other player guesses the word correctly before the hanging is done, he wins.
Note: You can start taking French lessons online today.
For example: our word is “croissant”, so we give the category “baked goods”. Then we show how many letters it is:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Our opponent guesses an “A”. We write it in:
_ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _
He then guesses an “f”. We draw the base of the scaffolding: ________
He guesses “R”.
_ R _ _ _ _A _ _.
He guesses “I”. The vertical beam of the scaffolding is added: __I__
And so on until he guesses the word.
Advanced: Pictionary or Charades
This is for advanced French language learning. You will need four people at least to play, though there are versions for only two.
You divide into two teams. One team gives the other words or phrases in French. The second team must choose who will explain and who will guess.
The first team gives the explainer their phrase and a timer is set. The explainer must either draw it in some way or explain it WITHOUT using the words or expressions their partner should guess.
If the partner guesses the French language phrase right, the point goes to them. If not, the point goes to the team that thought up the phrase. The first team to reach ten points are the winners.
Bonus points can be given for pronunciation.
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Simple Games to Learn French Grammar
Anyone learning a second language knows that the drag is often not even the vocabulary, but the grammar, with conjugation and sentence structure making it difficult to learn French. Here are some challenges and games of grammar skill to improve your knowledge of the French language.
Hot potato verbs (for beginners)
To play this game, you will need a ball (for example, a basketball) and some friends. Someone chooses a verb and starts by yelling a tense and throwing the ball to someone. That person has to start the conjugation, passing the ball to the next person, who continues. If there are still people in the game at the end of the tense, a new tense is chosen.
The verb is “boire”. The first person chooses “passé composé” and throws the ball to the next person, who has to yell “j’ai bu”, throwing the ball to the next who says “tu as bu” etc.
- If someone drops the ball, he is out.
- If someone holds the ball for too long (more than three counts), he or she is out.
- If someone messes up a conjugation, he is out.
- The last man standing wins and gets to choose the next verb.
This is a good game for teachers with large classes, to loosen them up and really make the lesson more challenging, or for a group of friends studying for the same French class.
This game requires a bit of preparation. It is great for learning sentence structure and how to make nouns and verbs or adjectives agree. You will need several categories of index cards, depending on the complexity. For a beginner group, three is enough:
More advanced decks can add conjunctions and adverbial phrases to build longer sentences.
You can simply photocopy some pages from a French book and cut them up if you don’t want to think up the words yourself.
The cards are mixed thoroughly and each player is given seven cards. One card is placed on the table and the deck is put face down next to it.
To play the game, the first player can look at his hand and start building a sentence with the card on the table. The sentence must make grammatical sense! If the verb is in the third person singular, you can’t place a subject card with “je” on it. Adjectives have to agree!
If you can’t contribute to the sentence, you take a card from the pile.
The person who completes the sentence (it has to have at least one subject, one verb, one object and one adjective) gets one point.
The game is over when someone has no more cards in their hand. Then the completed sentences are tallied. To win, you need to have more completed sentences than anybody else. Each card still in your hand is a penalty of 1/4 point.
If you like, you can introduce some jokers or wild cards that are played to make adjectives and verbs agree even if they don’t really, but a player putting down a wild card has to say the correct conjugation.
Spin a tale
Tired of watching French films to improve your language learning skills and eager to apply all your new vocabulary?
“Tales” is a game of immersion, a sort of round robin. Someone starts a tale in one French sentence and the next person has to continue it with one sentence.
The continuation has to make sense both grammatically and in terms of storytelling (a hare can’t suddenly become an elephant). See how long you can make it!
Or you can do the classic written version:
Someone starts the tale at the top of a piece of paper, folds it down over the text and passes it on. Once everyone has written something the paper is unfolded and the ensuing tale read aloud, usually to hilarity.
Online Games and Quizzes for Learning French
If you don’t have any fellow aspiring French speakers, here are some sites with language games to play online:
- French Games has 7 little games to practise your French vocabulary. It needs Adobe Flash Player.
- Ciel Bretagne has a series of suggestions for making language learning fun.
- Digital dialects has a number of mini-games to practise specifics aspects of the French language.
Additionally, Mindsnacks is a fun little app you can download that will help you improve your French.
Commercial French Games
KLOO is the creator of various little games for language learning. They all have a French edition:
- Card games in which you learn vocabulary and build French sentences.
- A board game with a similar premise but a more dynamic gameplay.
Additionally, the French verb conjugation bible, the Bescherelle, has both online games and a physical board game to help you master French verb conjugation and grammar - with the additional challenge that all the instructions are in French!
Play Video Games in French
More and more video games now come with several language options to choose from. Why not French? Get your games from France or click the French option when gaming, whether dialogue-base roleplaying games, quiz games or strategy games. Or see if there is a way to log into a French server in a MMMORPG or other browser game for true language immersion as you interact with French players.
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