You’ve searched everywhere for a fun way to build your French vocabulary.
And now the search has taken you to your local bookstore.
While perusing the foreign language section, you see a selection of French word game books.
Your interest piqued, you grab one of the paperback volumes off the shelf.
Lists of French words catch your eye as you skim the pages. Each list of words is stacked neatly underneath a square that’s filled with columns and rows of seemingly random letters. Could this be the vocabulary builder you’ve been dreaming of?
Tilt your head 45 degrees. Maybe it’s only half a right angle away.
And there it is! You just found a great French vocab booster known as mots cachés (hidden words), also called mots mélangés (mixed-up words) or mot mystère (mystery word). You may know them better as word search games.
Hidden within the alphabet soup of every French word search is a way to build your personal word-stock. Let’s unlock the secrets of these cryptic grids.
Advantages of French Word Search Games
Word search puzzles are a convenient and effective way to step up your game in French. Here’s why:
- Portable practice. It’s easy to take French word searches with you wherever you go. They’re available in several different print and digital formats, and you can squeeze in a few moments of searching whenever you have idle time—whether you’re waiting in line at a store or chilling out with a cup of hot coffee.
- Gamified learning. When you choose an entertaining learning activity such as a word search game, you increase your engagement with the subject you’re trying to master. Your brain is stimulated and primed to learn.
- Reading and spelling benefits. Sure, word searches might have seemed like busy work back in elementary school. But it’s time to get busy with French word searches, because these particular puzzles can improve both reading and spelling. As you look for the target words in the puzzle, you’ll familiarize yourself with common French phonetic patterns. The more you see these patterns, the more French spelling will become second nature to you—and reading in French will get easier, too. Word up!
- Flock together with “words of a feather.” Many word search puzzles are themed, which means you’re searching for groups of related words. Learning associated words increases your awareness of their nuances.
- Learn unusual words. Like crossword puzzles, word searches can include rare words. These range from arcane words such as jubé (a structure separating the choir from the altar in a church) to the slang word zigouiller (to “do in,” in the sense of killing).
Techniques for Getting the Most Out of French Word Search Games
Don’t miss out on the learning opportunities offered by French word searches—try these tips!
- Make a list and check it twice. While you’re working on your word searches, jot down any unknown words you encounter. After you’ve completed each puzzle, look up your list of words in the dictionary. Write out their definitions (using actual pen and paper, if possible) and study them. Try to use them when you write and speak in French, so they can become a permanent part of your vocabulary.
- Start your stopwatch. Keep yourself spurred on to keep practicing! Track your stats and watch your speed improve as you get better at recognizing the French words in the puzzles.
- Spell the words out loud. As you move from one word in the search list to the next, spell each word out loud. Instead of defaulting to your native alphabet, try spelling them out using the French alphabet.
- Practice your pronunciation. After you spell each word aloud, pronounce it in French. If it’s a noun, include the definite or indefinite article so you’ll be more apt to remember its gender. The added speaking and sound dimensions will boost sensory input, engaging the benefits of multisensory learning.
- Supplement your learning. In order to internalize this new vocabulary, you’ll need to hear these words a lot. FluentU is the perfect place to do just that.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
You'll receive video recommendations that suit your interests and current level of progress.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
6 Fabulous French Word Search Games
We’ve looked at the advantages of improving your French vocabulary with word searches. We’ve discussed how to leverage these popular puzzles for even more learning.
Now it’s time to sharpen your pencils and your wits—and enjoy these six superb French word search games. Jouons! (Let’s play!)
Enter the world of French word searches via the World Wide Web.
- Virtual searching — Play directly on your browser—a simple click and glide of your mouse is all you need to get right into the game. As soon as you highlight each of the target words inside of the puzzle grid, it’ll be automatically crossed off the list.
- Dozens of themes — With a wide variety of themes to choose from, play whichever puzzles suit your interests and mood.
Don’t know where to begin? Try Les Nationalités des pays francophones (French-Speaking Nationalities) to learn about the many countries where French plays an important role in communication. If you’re feeling adventurous, Cris et frissons (Screams and Chills) puts you on the trail of words related to crimes, detective work and mysteries.
Notre Temps’ Mots mélangés
Platform: Online magazine
Lifestyle magazine Notre Temps (Our Times) is a great source for online word games, including mots mélangés (word search puzzles).
- A puzzle a day — Enjoy a new free puzzle every day, even on the weekends. Miss a day or two? No problem! You can go back through a year’s worth of daily puzzles, any time you’d like.
- Window on the word — A text box at the top of the puzzle shows you the letters you’re currently selecting in the grid.
The game clock starts automatically. Click on the countdown in the upper left-hand corner of the game board to pause the timer. When you’re ready to continue, select Reprendre (Resume), or click the countdown clock again.
Getting stumped? Click the magic wand icon for a single word hint. If you’ve given up entirely, a simple click on the star icon will show you the solution for the whole puzzle. And you have the option to replay, if you’d like to take another crack at the game.
French Word Search
For about a dollar, you can upgrade your snazzy new iPhone with a colorful French word search app.
- Beginners welcome — This app is designed for kids…and if you’re just a babe in the woods when it comes to French, it’s a great way to learn the basics—including essentials like colors, directions and seasons of the year.
- Learn like with like — Puzzles are organized by word categories, so you can learn related words together. Strengthen your vocabulary on a topic-by-topic basis.
This app highlights the words you find in a spectrum of different colors, making it easier to distinguish one word from another within the game board.
Learn French Word Search
Soup up your Android device with this free French word search game.
- Grow as you learn — Select varying difficulty levels to match your skill. Work your way up from a simple grid to a maze of hidden words. The high contrast of white letters on a purple background makes the letters stand out on the board. Several shades of gray will highlight the words you find.
- Your game, your way — Use the game settings to enable or disable the game timer and game sounds. You can decide whether “reverse words” (words displayed backwards in the puzzle) will be included.
“Mots cachés: A French Vocabulary Review with Word-Search Puzzles”
If you’re a fan of paperback word search books, rest assured that you can get your French word search fix. There are several such books available, and “Mots cachés: A French Vocabulary Review with Word-Search Puzzles” stands out among the best.
- Learning, unplugged — With all the great digital French word searches available, why play on paper? Well, research shows that unplugging from electronics can relax our minds—making learning easier.
- Keep as sharp as the point of your pencil — You’ll need to be extra careful as you play through the pages of this mots cachés book. Misspelled words scattered throughout the puzzle act as detractors, forcing you to pay attention to correct spellings.
This book is especially effective for French vocabulary review, since it offers topic-based puzzles such as Les animaux (Animals), Les nombres (Numbers) and Les jours et les mois (The Days and the Months).
A French-English glossary is conveniently included in the book, making it easier to look up definitions for unknown words.
Puzzles to Print
Do you enjoy playing word search puzzles on paper, but don’t always feel like lugging a whole book around? Maybe you need merely a page or two to keep you occupied, something you can slip into a notebook.
Puzzles to Print has you covered, with a set of word search puzzles you can print out as needed. Each puzzle tackles a different topic. Top picks include Le Fromage (cheese) and Je me sens… (“I Feel…”/French Feelings).
- Word searches, the old-fashioned way — Nestled on the French Word Puzzles page between the crosswords and word scrambles, you’ll find une dizaine (about ten) French word searches available for printing. If you want to check your work, you can also print out the answer key—look for the button labeled “Print Solution,” right under the option to “Print Puzzle.”
- Simulated paper and pen —Has your ink cartridge run dry? You can play on virtual paper! Simply use the “Print” option to save the puzzle you want as a PDF. If you open up the file you saved in the Microsoft Edge internet browser, you can use the “ballpoint pen” tool to circle words and cross them off the list. (Not all browsers offer this feature.)
Whether you play French word searches on your browser, your phone or your tablet (or go with the time-honored paper-and-ink format), you’ll find the vocabulary boost you’re seeking, right there on the game board.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.