Spanish card games are collaborative, they’re entertaining and, best of all, they force you to put your Spanish skills to use—quickly!
Whether you’re playing card games you already know and love, games made for Spanish learners or authentic games from the Spanish-speaking world (we’ll cover all of these below!) you’ll be getting essential speaking and listening practice you just don’t find elsewhere.
Let’s deal you in!
- Why Use Card Games to Learn Spanish?
- How to Best Use Card Games to Learn Spanish
- Games That Play Well in Spanish
- Authentic Spanish Card Games
Why Use Card Games to Learn Spanish?
Fun and games—what’s not to love? Listen, when we were kids learning how to speak, understand, read and write in our native languages, we did that in large part through play. Whether it was peekaboo with our parents or word games in elementary school, learning in a fun, playful environment just made sense.
But there’s also science to back it up. Studies indicate that play has a direct link to learning.
Which just shows that learning a language should have some element of enjoyment in it, no matter what age you are!
Card games in particular give learners a chance to practice vocabulary, counting and other skills in a fun but structured environment. You’ll be absorbing essential skills and you’ll likely have an easier time remembering them than if you’d plucked them out of a textbook with no context.
Plus, the friendly competition of a card game will boost your motivation to keep practicing and learning!
How to Best Use Card Games to Learn Spanish
The focus is on language learning, so speak Spanish while playing. Keep that front and center in your mind. Regardless of the card game you choose or what the rules are, the object is language practice and acquisition, so Spanish should be spoken throughout. Por ejemplo (For example), here are some key expressions you’ll be using during your card games:
- ¿Alguien tiene una carta azul? (Does anyone have a blue card?)
- Tengo una carta alta. (I have a high card.)
- Es tu turno. (It’s your turn.)
- If your partner asks “¿Tiene una tarjeta de cinco?” (“Do you have a five card?”) hopefully you’ll be able to lay one down with a triumphant, opponent-crushing “¡Aquí!” (“Here!”)
Don’t forget to name the colors, numbers and objects on the cards in Spanish!
Even if it feels awkward initially, keep at it. You’ll be (pleasantly!) surprised as the game progresses because speaking Spanish will feel more natural as you go along.
There’s not just one type of Spanish card game! Below, we’ll first show you some card games that play well in Spanish, including a couple that were specifically designed for Spanish learners.
Then we’ll show you some authentic card games from the Spanish-speaking world, which won’t just help your Spanish skills, but will also give you some common ground with native speakers.
Games That Play Well in Spanish
Most of us have played some serious Uno. It’s just a go-everywhere, play-anytime card game that’s suitable for everyone—from young children to their grandparents.
And I’m sure you notice the name of the game? Literally, uno means “one” in Spanish so it already has a Spanish-speaking (and thinking!) link to it.
Fun in English? Certainly. But it’s even more amazing in Spanish!
Think color and number learning with this one. Sequencing, too. This game forces the mind to make connections in Spanish. When a red four card is played you either need to place una carta roja (a red card) or una carta de cuatro (a four card) down. For younger or beginning language learners, rounds can move slowly, but as proficiency increases, so can the rate of play.
Don’t have the card you need? ¡Toma una carta! (Take a card!)
If you really want to give your opponent trouble, remember “Take four cards” is “Tomar cuatro cartas.”
And when you’re laying down one of the heavy cards, smile as you watch your opponent squirm because a smile translates—no words needed!
This pack comes with two decks of cards with Spanish words and phrases. The game is specifically designed for language learners—players increase vocabulary skills (and score points) while building sentences with the cards.
Classic KLOO is designed for learners up to the intermediate level and is even accessible to absolute beginners. The cards are color-coded and have arrows as hints to help formulate sentences. Then, the trick is to translate! Scores are kept and points are awarded, giving this the potential to be a very competitive activity!
It’s a great concept and forces players to use skills and vocabulary they already have while introducing additional vocabulary. Also, sentence structure is presented in a hands-on manner. Moving the cards around shows the different ways words connect.
In this way, it provides clear grammar demonstrations that are especially beneficial to those learners who may need visual concept reinforcement.
¡Dígame! literally means “tell me,” so you know this game is going to have lots of vocabulary and speaking practice—covered with laughs and coated with entertainment.
Actually speaking Spanish—as opposed to silently studying—is essential if you want to become fluent. To achieve higher proficiency, anything that encourages fluid speech, language recognition and word acquisition is a game-changer (pun intended).
¡Dígame revolves around actually speaking to learn new words or phrases. Players assist one another using only Spanish to describe the vocabulary on individual cards. When a phrase is mastered, it’s put in a pile for a challenge round—which is the time to prove you’ve actually tucked what’s on the card into your Spanish vocabulary! (Check out this video to learn more about how gameplay works.)
It’s an immersive language-learning game that’s appropriate for new learners as well as those with some Spanish language skills. One person fairly proficient in Spanish is enough to keep this game rolling for as long as the group wants to play.
Authentic Spanish Card Games
If you want to see how people in Spanish-speaking countries play cards, pick up some traditional Spanish cards.
A baraja española (Spanish card deck) is different than the standard 52-card deck most of us have hanging around. These typically have 40 to 50 cartas (cards).
The suits are: copas (cups), oros (coins), bastos (clubs) and espadas (swords).
It’s easy to find decks of Spanish cards in specialty shops or on Amazon so there’s nothing holding you back from some authentic Spanish card games, is there?
Chinchon is a game for two to 12 players and is similar to Rummy. It’s a simple draw-and-discard game that focuses on matching pairs and making runs. This is a very popular card game in Spain; in Uruguay a variation called Conga is played.
The objective is to use your card to build a chinchon—seven consecutive cards of the same suit.
We take the talents of building and sequencing for granted but really, we didn’t always know how to do that. We learned—and that type of knowledge benefits Spanish language students because it applies to other areas of language, as well. Consider how we gain the ability to conjugate verbs or sort idioms. Those are build-and-sequence skills so anything that’ll strengthen those gets us closer to language proficiency.
Think about it—become an expert now, so when you’re in Madrid you’ll build the cards like a local! And with the language practice you gain from this game, you’ll speak like one, too!
Looking for partners or want to take the game to go? Play on the run with the app (App Store/Google Play). There are even online communities to interact with from across the globe. Native Spanish speakers take this to a whole new level!
Tute is one of the most popular games played with the Spanish deck. It accommodates two to four players and is a simple game where cards are thrown on the table one-by-one—every player’s objective is to have the highest value card on the table. The person with the highest card wins all the others. Points are tallied when all cards have been played, and the person with the most wins the hand.
The game itself originated in Italy—the name Tute comes from the Italian word tutti, which means “all.”
The player who collects all cuatro reyes (four kings) can call tute, ending the round with the collector victorious. This scramble to gather kings can inspire good-natured trash talk. Goad your competition, act as if you’ve got a king or two in your hand and make the others wonder who really has the kings (all in Spanish, of course!).
Again, speak only Spanish during play and pick up phrases and words almost effortlessly. Build vocabulary and increase reasoning skills with this fast-paced game.
Having fun and learning? ¡Todo bien! (All good!)
Away from the cards? Play with apps (App Store/Google Play)! Bonus? Your online amigos de cartas (card friends) could be from anywhere on the globe!
Escoba means “broom” in Spanish. The name of this game probably derives from the chance to “sweep” the table and capture points.
It’s a super-fast, interactive, fun game for two or more players. Once all the players have three cards, the dealer turns four cards face up on the table. These are the cards open para capturar (to capture). It requires thinking on the fly, which forces players to use strategic decision-making skills. In English? Not so difficult. But in Spanish? It’ll definitely stretch even an intermediate learner’s abilities. That means you’ll boost your skills quickly!
Game play progresses until all the cards have been used and the maximum number of captures has taken place. Points are tracked and the one with the highest score is declared the winner.
Capturing cards requires number skills because captures occur when the face card values add up to quince (fifteen). You’ll be counting in Spanish under pressure!
Escobas (sweeps) are made when the card played captures all the table cards. It doesn’t happen with every round so be ready to cheer ¡Buen trabajo! (Good job!) if your partner manages to pull it off!
This one is simple enough for children to play. I learned Escoba at an early age and remember hours of laughter as we all tried to wrangle our way to higher scores!
Apps (App Store/Google Play) make it possible to play even when las cartas (the cards) aren’t with you!
Learning a language takes a lot of work but it definitely doesn’t have to be a day-in, day-out hit-the-books kind of a drag. And you know what? It shouldn’t be like that—ever! Language learning can be so interactive and cool—if you’re willing to play a few games and learn some new skills. Step outside of your comfort zone, lay down a good hand, sweep the table and learn Spanish like a pro.
¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)