Board games aren’t just for fun.
When you think of studying English, what do you imagine?
You probably see yourself sitting at a desk with your nose in a book.
But studying English doesn’t always have to be that way. Studying can be a social and fun activity.
Gather your friends, grab some board games and you will be learning in no time.
Some board games are created to be educational and teach the players.
Others are made to just be fun, but can also be used as a way to learn.
You have fun while you learn, and can use the new things you find out right away by practicing new words with your friends.
But which board game should you start with? There are a lot of board games that can be used to learn English. Keep in mind that they will all teach you very different skills—some are great for learning new vocabulary, while others are a good way to practice using the vocabulary you already know.
Choose the games that sound the most fun and which are best suited for your level of English.
Below is a list of 7 great board games to get you started. We have also included some similar games for your smartphone and computer.
7 Board Games to Learn English and Play Your Way to Fluency
No English learning game list can be complete without the classic Scrabble game!
To play Scrabble, you have to arrange letters into words on a playing board. Letters earn you points, and special tiles on the board give you extra points. The goal of the game is to beat your opponent(s) by writing the best words and putting them in the best place on the board.
You may be thinking that you probably need to know a lot of words before you can play the game, but here’s the best part: Scrabble games are often played with dictionaries close by.
You will start to get a great sense of how English words look and feel once you have played a few times, and you start to see the letters in a different way. You might see the letters L, E, E and R, and wonder if Leer is a word. Look it up in the dictionary and you will learn that it is a word, and that it means “to stare at someone in an unpleasant way.”
Scrabble is also great because you do not need to get a big group of people together to enjoy it: It is a perfect 2-player game.
Also try: Words With Friends. This is basically Scrabble online. You can play against any of your friends anytime, no matter where they are.
Every card in Taboo shows one main word. Below the main word you will find a list of words that are similar to the main word, either synonyms (words which have the same meaning) or words which are closely associated with the main word. Your task is to describe the main word to someone without using any of the words underneath it.
For example, if your card’s main word is “elbow,” the words under it would be “joint,” “arm,” “bend,” “knee” and “macaroni.” In this case you cannot say “it’s like a knee on your arm,” or “it’s a kind of macaroni that bends.”
How would you describe an elbow without using any of those words?
As you can see, this game is much harder than it sounds at first. It makes you think in creative ways. Thanks to Taboo, you will discover that you know a lot more words than you think you do.
Also, if you play with a dictionary you will have a chance to learn not just one new word, but any word that is listed under it as well. Taboo can be played with any number of people, using teams or just going one-by-one. However you want to play, it is still fun and you will still learn something!
Also try: Just Say It! This is an iOS version (for iPhones) which has cards created by the online community, including some popular references (like “Gangnam Style”). You still need a group of people to play it, so save these games for the next time you have a party.
To play Apples to Apples, every player except one “judge” puts a card down face-down that is best described by a special card on the table. The judge turns the cards over and chooses the best card. Whoever placed that card down wins a point, and someone else gets to be the judge in the next turn.
It is a very fun game that is also very funny, since the card combinations can sometimes be ridiculous. A card like “Loveable” might end up with results like “Butterflies” or “My Bathroom.”
It is also a great game for learning English.
The words on the cards are all either nouns or adjectives. Best of all, you don’t even need to play this game with a dictionary—the definitions are listed right on the cards. Adjective cards like “frightening” have synonyms like “scary.” Nouns like “Octogenarian” have definitions that are sometimes funny, like “A person who is between 80 and 90 years old. They do not have eight legs.”
You do need a big group of people to play this game—4 people is fine but more than 5 is recommended. Also keep in mind that some nouns have famous peoples names or some popular culture items, so they might not be familiar to you.
Also try: Wordner. This is the closest online alternative to Apples to Apples. Wordner is a word association game that has you write creative sentences and play with other people online.
Once upon a time…there lived a monster, or a king, or maybe a princess? You decide.
Once Upon a Time is a card game that lets you and your friends tell a story. Everyone gets some cards that have story elements and one card that has an ending.
One narrator (the person telling the story) gets to start telling the story, trying to use the cards in their hand and lead the story to the ending they have. Other players can interrupt by placing down their own cards and continue the story with different ideas instead.
It is a really fun game where no one really “wins”—the point is to tell an interesting story and entertain yourself and your friends. You can use the game as it is or make your own cards with words that you want to learn. Have fun trying to include as many vocabulary words in your story as you can.
Atlas Games, the makers of Once Upon a Time, has actually put the full instructions and list of cards for the game on their website! That way you can practice alone or create your own game to play with friends.
This is a game that makes you “think outside the box”—or in other words, think creatively.
You are given categories—like “color” or “things that are cold”—and you have to think of words that fit those categories. Before each round, you roll a die to choose a letter. Then the timer starts and everyone races to be more creative than the others by thinking of words that begin with that letter and fit the categories.
You score more points for writing things that no one else wrote. So if your letter is “I” and your category is “things that are cold,” instead of writing “ice cream” you might write “igloo.”
This is a fantastic game for anyone who’s just starting out with English and wants to practice vocabulary words. It pushes you to think of more uncommon words and their definitions. It is even better if you play with a native so you can learn new words from them.
Scattegories is actually pretty easy to play without needing to buy anything. Choose your own categories, set a timer on your phone and—there you have it! You are ready to play. You can even challenge yourself by playing it alone.
Also try: Freeze It! is a similar one-player game on iOS.
Here’s another great vocabulary game!
Can you arrange all your letters into words? Make words that are 2-6 letters long with the tiles that you are given. Dabble is similar to Scrabble but gives you freedom to create whatever words you want, without needing to connect them to anything on a board.
Dabble will make you think hard about how to use your letters to make the most words. It uses anagrams, which are words that have rearranged (mixed up) letters.
To learn the most from Dabble, try playing with an anagram solver like this one: just put in the letters that you have left and you will see what words you can create with them. Look up any words you don’t know, and you will be learning new vocabulary.
A bunch of vocabulary words right at your fingertips! In Funglish you have to get others to guess words by using tiles with descriptive words on them.
Each card you get has six words on it. You have three minutes to get everyone else to guess as many of these words as they can. You describe what the words definitely are, might be and are definitely not.
For example, if you wanted to describe the word “cat,” you might say it is definitely “furry,” it might be “fat” and it is definitely not “scaly.”
Before you even start playing, it is a good idea to look through all the words and look up the ones you don’t know. One way to learn well from this game is to eliminate the time limit and look up words in the dictionary as you play. Repeated usage of vocabulary words helps you remember them, so playing Funglish will teach you more than a few new words.
Thanks to these great board games you will not even realize that you are learning English.
You will just be playing around with your friends—or your smartphone.
And why not?
Learning should be fun!
And One More Thing…
If you like learning English through games, you’ll love FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word “brought,” you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.