“But a table isn’t a girl!”
It’s easy to get frustrated with gendered nouns when you’re first starting to learn French.
In fact, even for advanced speakers, it can be tough to deduce whether a word is masculine or feminine in French without ever making any mistakes.
Even once your conditional is perfect and you’ve totally mastered the subjunctive, even then you, as a nearly-fluent speaker, could have a hard time guessing if a new word is masculine or feminine…or even remembering the genders of words you don’t as often as the rest.
That’s why it’s important to never stop practicing.
But Why Is It Important to Know the Genders of French Words?
Some beginners ask themselves what the point of learning the gender of a noun is. After all, it’s not as though we go around saying “a” or “the” in front of every noun in English…right?
Even though English isn’t a terribly article-heavy language, French is. You’ll need to use a definite or indefinite article pretty much every time you say a noun, not to mention that you’ll need your adjectives to be in agreement. That’s why, whenever you’re memorizing a new vocab word, you should always take note of the indefinite article of the new word and take care to memorize a word as an ensemble of gender and term, not just an isolated term.
For many, the ideal way to remember this key information is with flashcards…but if you grow tired of them, you’re not alone. We love to use games to practice gender in French, and we’ve united some of our favorites to give you some ideas.
6 Solo and Group Games for Practicing the Masculine and Feminine in French
Games to Play Alone
Most of the time, when you’re practicing your French, you’ll be practicing alone. That’s why we’re highlighting a few of our favorite games to play when you’re by yourself—the perfect way to take 10 minutes out of your day to better perfect your French.
1. The Flashcard Race
You’ve probably already made a few flashcards to help you learn nouns, but these flashcards will be a bit different. Put the word on one side and the gender on the other. Then start the clock!
Look at the word, and say aloud the word with the indefinite article: if you see table, you say “la table.” Saying the word aloud will help you remember the correct sound, and therefore you’ll be more likely to remember the gender next time. For every wrong answer, add 5 seconds to the clock.
Make about 50 cards to start, though you can always add more. Your job is to defeat your earlier time, so keep a log and compete against yourself.
You can make your own flashcards the old-fashioned way, but there are also a few apps you can use!
- Try Chegg Flashcards for iPhone to create your own customizable flashcards and track your speed automatically.
- Create your own personalized vocabulary lists on FluentU and play with the resulting SRS flashcards. They’ll help you learn vocabulary, grammar and even entire phrases. You’ll also get to see cool stuff on your flashcards, like video clips in which your words are spoken in context.
- Use Google Spreadsheets to create your very own flashcards with gFlashPro.
- Cram is a beautifully created app that works for any device and allows you to either use other people’s cards or upload your own to share with others.
2. The Memory Game
You probably remember this game from elementary school. You’ll need to make your set of cards to match, one set of genders and another of words.
First, make the matches by flipping each card and finding the appropriate matching indefinite article. When you’ve made the matches the way you want to, check your work against a master list. You get points for every correct match. Each time you play, you can try to beat your previous scores.
You can make your own Memory Match game as well, using this app.
3. The French Gender Quiz
There are lots of quizzes available online to help you remember French genders.
We love this endings quiz. Even though French genders don’t follow one specific rule, remembering how the endings of genders usually work will help you make better educated guesses when learning new words.
These Trials by Fire are great for practicing with a variety of words, and since there are many tests you can use the site again and again. Once you’ve gotten through the quizzes the first time, go back through and do them again!
We also love this noun gender app, which is played a bit like Tetris. A noun appears, and you must decide whether it is masculine, feminine or plural by tilting your phone so that the word drops into the right column. It requires you to think fast on your feet, which is the ideal way to integrate noun genders into your comprehension of the word itself.
Games to Play in a Group
Occasionally, you’ll have a group of friends learning French at the same time as you, whether you’re learning individually or in a class. If you have any French-speaking friends and you’d like to play some games with them, try some of these group games!
For all of these games, you’ll need an arbitrator—either someone who speaks French fluently or someone armed with a French dictionary or French app who can check to make sure that no one is cheating.
4. Red Light Green Light
Red Light Green Light is a typical schoolyard game, and you can play the same game with noun gender.
The arbitrator is the person who stands at the front of the room or yard; this person can easily be armed with a dictionary or app. The arbitrator calls out a word with the gender—but the arbitrator can choose whether they use the correct gender or the incorrect gender. If the gender is correct, you may step forward. If the gender is incorrect, you may not.
Those who run forward when the gender is incorrect will need to go back to the starting line. This game is even more fun if you blindfold the participants!
5. Race! Irregular Feminine Forms
This game can actually be played alone if you like, though it’s nice to have a friend! One person chooses a list of 20 masculine words with a feminine form—ideally, pick all words with an irregular feminine form, but you can just as easily pick a few with a regular feminine form to make things more interesting.
When the timer begins, the other person comes up with as many feminine forms as possible in one minute. All correct answers get one point. All unanswered words get zero points. All incorrect answers lose one point. Total up, and then it’s the other person’s turn to race!
6. Categories (with Gender Rules!)
This game is great for a crowd of people. Categories is a great game to play to help with any themed vocabulary, but with gender rules it’s a bit different.
In the traditional game, you would give a category, for example, animals, and everyone would go around the circle listing words until someone either can’t think of one or repeats one that has already been said. Gender rules can modify the game in several ways.
One version is simply to say that each word must be accompanied by an indefinite article. This is the simplest way to play with gender rules.
Another version is to say that the category is not just animals, but animals in the feminine. This requires you to think a bit more!
The last, most difficult version is to make people trade off. If the category is animals, the group would have to go around in the following way:
Thereby alternating between masculine and feminine words. It makes getting stumped quite a bit easier, but the rewards you reap will be that much stronger!
When you make learning fun, it’s a lot easier to get on board! Gendered nouns may seem like a pain at first, but once you’ve adapted some of these games, you’ll be a seasoned pro before too long.
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