It’s game time.
And may the odds be ever in your favor.
Here’s a riddle to get you started:
If a word skips, hops and jumps to the other side of the street, it’s a crossword.
So what do you call a puzzle that hits a bullseye every time?
If you answered “arrow puzzle,” then you also hit a bullseye.
Now, what do crosswords and arrow puzzles have in common?
When you’re studying French and playing fun games, you’ll always hit that metaphorical bullseye.
Play for Keeps: How to Win at French Learning with Games, Puzzles and More
There’s a plethora of games and puzzles that exist for French language learners, and they exist in many different mediums.
From party games and newspaper crosswords to family board games, learning French can become more than just memorization and grammar practice—it can become a fierce race to see who can make it to the finish line first!
So how can you get started and include games in your French learning?
How Games and Puzzles Challenge Your French
There are so many advantages to playing French puzzles and games.
What’s great about infusing a daily puzzle or party game into your learning is that it’s inherently fun—you get to learn French in a setting that’s pleasurable. It’s another way of pushing yourself further in your language skills while also having fun.
You learn more vocabulary, grammar and colloquial French
You challenge your ability to apply your knowledge of French vocabulary as well as challenge your comprehension of French grammatical structure when you play puzzles like crosswords and word puzzles. Games are inherently a perfect way to strengthen your knowledge of French overall. Through games like arrow puzzles and crosswords you adopt new vocabulary by solving the word clues. You’ll learn new vocabulary beyond that if you’re trying to identify synonyms or antonyms by using a thesaurus.
In group games like card games or board games, you’ll not only have to solve clues but also communicate quickly (especially with games that include timers). This will force you to practice your colloquial French and adopt new words that get your point across more quickly.
Games challenge what you already know
Games give you a good indication of how much you really do know, identifying what you should work on in future lessons or study time. For example, while working on a crossword or reading a card in a board game, you might not understand exactly what a sentence says because the grammar is confusing. You can write down the sentence and look up the structure later, then work on that particular problem in future exercises.
A great way to help you with this in the moment is to keep a French dictionary around to anticipate finding words you don’t know—and consider keeping a thesaurus for crosswords. You’ll be amazed at how many words you learn from just the clues, and it’s your prior knowledge that’ll help you figure out new words or grammar structures just through these context clues.
You interact more with fellow French speakers
Group games like board games and party games will force you to not only challenge your knowledge of the language but also to interact with other French speakers. This will give you a chance to learn from those who have more knowledge, ask questions when you’re confused and practice speaking French that goes beyond basic chit-chat in a casual, friendly setting. Putting yourself in an unfamiliar setting is crucial to becoming fully fluent in a language. Otherwise, you become an expert at stiff small talk and stay forever a beginner with the natural, native way of speaking.
Ways to Incorporate Games and Puzzles Into Your French Learning
Attempt one puzzle every day
After you’ve found some great crossword puzzles and arrow puzzles, dedicate yourself to spending some time every day attempting to solve one. Start with the easier puzzles and move up, giving yourself a chance to improve your vocabulary in your personal study time. Soon, you’ll be solving one puzzle per day and you’ll notice how strong your vocabulary has become during the process!
Plan evenings with friends that include party games or board games
Find a party game or a board game you love—then put it to good use. Invite your best friends over for some laughs and a round of Concept. Consider making it a monthly event and ask your friends to switch up who brings the game each time. This will make your friends find games they believe will be fun while introducing you to new games that you can use in the future. It will also establish an evening where you must speak French the whole time—which will get your language skills from beginner to expert in no time!
Look for new puzzles that fit your personal preference
The more you love the game, the more you’ll participate.
Find a crossword that has a theme you love or even a theme that you’re working on studying that week. For example, work on a music crossword the same week you’re studying music vocabulary on your own. If you’re in the middle of basketball season, pick up a sports-themed arrow puzzle. And if you’re swept up in l’actualité (the news) or reading a lot of histoire (history), pick up French Trivial Pursuit. Find the game that fits your preference, whether that means it matches what you’re focusing on right then or your all-time favorite subject.
Now, what kinds of puzzles can help you achieve your goals of speaking better casual French, improving your vocabulary and boosting your grammar knowledge?
The Best Types of Games and Puzzles for French Language Learning
Mots croisés: Crosswords
For those at a more advanced level of French, mots croisés (crosswords) are perfect challenges for you.
They stretch your skills to an entirely new level, forcing you to first understand the clue at its most basic level. You must then expand that understanding to include a more complex realm of possibilities and pinpoint the one word that fits in the designated spot (and spell it right!).
Crosswords no doubt require a dictionary at your side, but even if a single clue takes you longer than you might desire, you’re bound to learn more than you think.
As you look for the solution, you’ll find new words or phrases that mean something very similar—but you’ll probably learn their nuances, too. With each new clue comes new revelations about the language.
Where do I find quality crosswords?
Newspapers: Le Monde, Le Figaro and most newspapers you can find at a newsstand will have crosswords in them—and they often have clues pertaining to the news and information you’ll find in the newspaper.
Online: Many free crosswords will appear on the magazines’ websites, but there are other online websites where you can find free games, such as Mots croisés and the Metro News website (a magazine distributed in the Paris train stations). You can also download an app for your phone called iCroisés.
Mots fléchés: Arrow puzzles
An arrow puzzle is a variant of a crossword that doesn’t have as many black squares as a true crossword, but has arrows inside the grid with clues preceding the arrows. You’ll often find arrow puzzles in puzzle magazines in France. They’re similar to crosswords in that you’ll be working your vocabulary skills as you try to complete the puzzles.
Where do I find quality arrow puzzles?
Magazines: Just like crosswords, you can find them in many puzzle-specific magazines, such as La Revue des Jeux, Télé 7 Jeux and Femme Actuelle Jeux. You can find the largest amount of arrow puzzles in Mégastar and Sport cérébral.
Board games, or jeux de société are some of the most interactive and fun French games. They’re always played with other members, meaning that you’ll have the opportunity to mingle with others who can teach you some of the intricacies of French.
One popular board game in France is called Concept. The idea is to use the cards which contain different universal symbols, such as a drop of water, a white paint splotch and a plate of dinner food. You pull a card that contains the word you must describe using these picture cards. For example, if you pull the word poisson (fish), you can put the card that includes a photo of sea life with the card that contains a drop of water to indicate “an animal that lives in water.” This game is only one of many examples of fun, enjoyable games that will certainly strengthen your vocabulary.
How do I find board games?
Where can I purchase board games in French?
You can buy many board games, including Concept, on French Amazon or FNAC. Sometimes, specialty game or language shops in your local town may carry some French games. Another great way to order games is through the games’ websites themselves, which typically have links to the best places where you can purchase the items.
The most exciting part about party games is participating in a new one. Many games like these are found at specific events, such as bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties and gatherings of friends. These kinds of events usually involve an interesting party game to get everyone interacting and having fun. A lot of times, games like these require you to think outside the box and will force you to approach French in a totally new way.
One popular game is called Psychiatrist. You need between 4 and 10 people participating. One person is deemed the “psychiatrist” and everyone else leaves the room to discuss what “sickness” they should all have. This can be anything, and it can be as simple as not using the letter “e.” The job of the psychiatrist is to ask everyone questions to determine what’s wrong with everyone.
Where can I find party games?
Try these websites, or ask a French friend what kinds of games are most popular!
Adopt a game or two as part of your French learning routine and you’ll find that learning a new language has unexpectedly great rewards.
Not only will you start speaking to all kinds of new people, but you’ll learn to solve all their puzzles and win all their games!
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