LINGO: Where words are a matter of life and death

Learning a language is very much like playing a game: you need to be strategic, know how to identify what’s important and what’s not so essential. You must assess probability and take risks. Sometimes you must make do with little (your word bank, your range of structures) but you must also try to be accurate. You also need to be open to the unexpected and use different sources of information (not just verbal, but also visual, musical, etc) not to mention a large dose of intuition. There are grammar rules for you to work out, but otherwise, like a computer game, imagination and resourcefulness are key, not forgetting a willingness to have a go and occasionally to get it wrong.

LINGO: Where words are a matter of life and death

Play through the scenario below in which you are unexpectedly dropped in a land whose language you need to learn as quickly as possible. Then, once you’ve played through the game and learned some basic principles in this language, have a go at questions 1-7 below!

1. Can you identify two verbs, and give their meanings?

2. Can you identify two nouns?

3. Can you find three ways of indicating possession (my, your, his/her)?

4. What’s the most likely meaning of primstick in question 4?

5. How do you say “to drink” in this language?

6. What are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular endings of verbs?

7. If “home” = heimo, “in” = o, how would you say: “I want to go to my country”?

The following links are useful if you want to continue to explore languages through games:


Marie Elven teaches written French language to all undergraduates taking French at St John’s. Her special interest lies in teaching Prose (translation from English into French), an exercise which provides multiple opportunities to explore aspects of language. She is a strong believer in the integrated study of language and literature, a belief which is central to her approach to language teaching.

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