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Board games that build foreign language vocabulary and grammar skills

By Janet Castrejón, MA

Family game night can be a great bonding experience as adults and children sit down together for a fun evening around the kitchen or living room table. It can also be an oppportunity to develop foreign language vocabulary and grammar skills. So, what games are the best for helping children to develop their foreign language skills? Below I describe three games that are available in foreign languages and are great for developing language skills.

Scrabble and Bananagrams are fantastic games for developing English or foreign language vocabulary. The nice thing about these games too is that they can be used with any language that uses the same letters as English. When I play in Spanish with my daughter, we say that the "N" can be the letter "N" or the Spanish "Ñ". If you don't want to use the English version, they are also available in some foreign languages. An additional advantage of buying the correct language version is that they will estimate how many of each letter you will need. For example, I know English uses the letter "e" more frequently than other languages. In the foreign language versions the letter distribution and the point value (for Scrabble) will be more appropriate to the language.

To get the most vocabulary development out of the game, play in teams and have an adult help each child. The adult can help point out words that the child is unfamiliar with, thereby increasing their vocabulary. An added benefit is that the child will be practicing spelling these new words. If you are playing alone with your child, you could both put your letters on the table so that the other can see and play more cooperatively. I help my daughter find words with her letters and I sometimes tell her that I'm stuck and ask if she has any suggestions for words with my letters.



Another board game that is great for developing vocabulary and practicing with grammar and sentence structure is Baffle Gab. In Baffle Gab you pick five word cards and then have one minute to write a story using all of the words. Baffle Gab is available in Spanish (Cuentamelo) and Canadian French (Baffoulier).



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