One of my fondest childhood pastimes was spending endless hours with my siblings animatedly playing board games, “juegos de mesa”, as we call them in Spanish. I come from a generation where the pinnacle of computer games meant a couple of white sticks on a black screen and power cuts were a frequent occurrence. When the best of both worlds collided, it meant the ultimate treat: playing monopoly in candlelight.
Personally, it has taken me a while to come round to the idea that electronic devices are very much an intrinsic part of the life of my children and generations to come. Pleasure can can now be derived from staring frantically at an artificially lit screen interacting with your friends, who are simultaneously playing in the comfort of their own homes. Physical, face-to-face, interaction has long ago given way to long distance communication. On paper not such a bad thing, but is it enough?
From a language teacher perspective, I can see how language learners have benefitted greatly from using software applications and accessing all kinds of data in any language. However, unless you are planning to live a hermit-like life forever, you must learn to interact with others in person. Communication is so much more than just verbal language and as with any other skill we can only get good at it if we practise regularly.
This brings me back to the old board games and languages. As a linguist, I am always on the prowl for the next device to recommend to my students. Lately, I had been having language apps flooding out of my ears whilst wading through a world that is become increasingly overcrowded with them. I must admit they are getting better and as I mentioned in my last post, everything that helps students learn has its time and place. However, when I was given the opportunity to play Kloo, an actual game with cards, a board and little race cars I was overjoyed.
My greatest challenge now was to convince other family members to raise their heads off their devices and join me. Enticed by the game’s name, Race to Paris, my two children started to explore the instructions and cards in the box. As the instructions are easy to understand, especially if you watch the ones on YouTube, we started playing soon after.
The game is very intuitive which in turn means players start making full sentences from the start. The game contains 4 decks of cards based on different categories (Everyday objects, clothing, places, food and drink and people). The aim is to build sentences with the 7 cards each player has. You get points for each card used, so the longer the sentence the better your chances of winning. The cards are a mixture of nouns, verbs, prepositions, phrases and adjectives which are illustrated in different colours. If you know the English equivalent of the words on your cards you get extra points. There are plenty of cards in one box to keep you going for a while and there is always the option of making it more challenging by playing the special squares too.
Overall, it would make a great present for someone who is already learning and has a basic grasp of the second language. It would be a brilliant tool to reinforce and learn new vocabulary and aid fluency. It would work very well in a school environment and as a family pastime alike. It is a great way to learn whilst enjoying yourself and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you are looking to have some old fashioned fun. Now, if you want the whole experience, turn the lights off and light some candles.