Describe-and-Guess Game

A very simple game that is good for improving your speaking in a language is simply to think of something and then try to describe it without saying what it is, while your partner tries to guess. There are various ways to formalise this, but I think its best to just keep it simple and casual so you can play it wherever.

You need a bit of basic language ability for this. Specifically you want to be able to describe things and use adjectives, and have a bit of vocab around this type of thing. Other useful words/sentence structures you might like to use and practice are:

  • say something is -er than something else – e.g. the thing is bigger or smaller than this other thing
  • say something is like something else
  • say what something is used for e.g. the thing is used for cutting
  • say something is a type of something e.g. the thing is a type of fruit

If you know you are going to play the game, you can learn or brush up on these types of sentence structures beforehand so that you can really practice them.

I think it is probably more fun with a limited vocabulary than as a fluent speaker, because then you have to be really creative and can say quite ridiculous things. For example:

  • Me describing snails – it is a small creepy crawly, it is very slow, it is like a rock, they live on land and in water
  • Me describing a hedgehog – it is an animal, it is like a ball, it has needles in its skin

If you’re playing with a partner who is learning the same language as you, or already speaks it, then you just think of something, and try and describe it, and your partner tries to guess.

If you’re on a long car drive with people who don’t speak your target language, like I was, you can think of the sentences in Māori and then say them in English but you can only say exactly what you can say in Māori!

You can still play this totally by yourself but obviously you can’t guess. Its still good practice to try and come up with descriptions.

It can be surprisingly hard to think of something to describe, because you keep trying to choose something “good”. So if you have vocab cards around you can use them, or open a dictionary or any kind of book and choose the first noun on the page, or do it like ispy where you choose something you can see.



Iwa – A Simple Online Word Puzzle

When you’re learning te reo Māori, it can be difficult to find fun language resources to supplement your learning. Although I have a lot to say on that topic, I’m not going to write about it now – instead I’m going to introduce you to one of these fun language resources – an online word puzzle created by one of the commenters here at Whakawhiti i te Arawhiti.

The game is called Iwa, and you may have seen an English language version before in a newspaper or magazine. You are presented with a grid of 9 letters, and you have to make as many (Māori) words as you can. The instructions are pretty simple:

  • Make as many Māori words as you can
  • Minimum word length is 3
  • You MUST use the letter in the middle square
  • Each square can be used only once
  • There is always (at least) one 9-letter word
Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 3.43.43 pm.png
A screenshot of Iwa showing the grid of letters and goals for numbers of words found!

This is a great puzzle, because although the rules are easy, it is challenging to people of any ability as they struggle to find and remember more words and push themselves to the edge of their vocabulary. Therefore, it is an extensible activity, by which I mean you can keep doing it and benefitting from it as your language ability improves.

The website for Iwa presents you with the grid of letters, but you “play” with pen and paper to write your list of words. When you’re ready to give up, just press the Ngā kupu button to view the list of possible words. What I really like here is that some of the words are hyperlinked to the online Te Aka Māori Dictionary, so you can continue your learning by viewing the definition of any words that pique your interest.

Don’t forget too that you could play with one or more friends – either co-operate as a team to think of the words, or compete against against each other! If someone challenges you on a word, try to explain it’s meaning in te reo!

Give Iwa a go at the website and thanks to commenter orotau for providing this great resource.

Edit: I hope its ok to provide a screenshot, because I do like posts with some pictures.