Let’s be real for a second, learning a new language is hard. And when you have little time to prepare language essentials before your next trip, it can become downright anxiety inducing. Maybe it’s because you have a full time job, super busy social life, a family that keeps you busy or are just really averse to the idea of learning a new skill at the moment. It’s only common sense and polite to learn at least a few helpful phrases or courtesies before crossing (language) borders. So that’s where language builder cards come in handy. I received a sample pack of language learning cards from Lingo Cards.
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Step 1: Pick a Learning Cards Language
When asked how many languages I speak, I generally respond with: “I learned six, but only speak two fluently.” Among my repertoire of failed language expertise is Spanish. Under the delusion that learning two related languages simultaneously would yield great results (kids, don’t even try), I enrolled in classes to learn Spanish and French way back at university. That quickly backfired. But I’m stubborn and persisted. My Spanish became decent enough but my French is tres terrible! (During my visit in Paris, I ordered a zucchini in a bakery…) It’s been years since I actually needed any of these, however.
So I was wondering how to learn Spanish again – I needed a serious refresher to kickstart my dormant Spanish vocabulary and phrases after travelling Barcelona years ago. You know, just to freshen up and gain a little more language competence. After all, language used helps keep your language skills – however pitiful – alive. Practice makes perfect! But how could I avoid the anxiety and pressure around learning the languages of the world? The mix of playing cards and language cards offered by Lingo Cards seemed to fit the bill.
Step 2: Creatively Use Language Builder Cards
Over the years, I tried all kinds of language learning approach. I bought the course books, answered the questions in workbooks, listened to audio tapes, ducked away from having to actually talk the language with class mates (and obviously being called out), took tests… you know, like the typical schooling system. It wasn’t all that practical.
What often worked for me were creative ways in which I could both visualise and actively apply the language. I repeatedly wrote down vocabulary and drew corresponding images next to them while reiterating the vocabulary. Needlessly to say, that took up quite a lot of time. I made myself fancy looking language builder cards but they are collecting dust now.
So the idea of gathering with friends and using the language in a playful way makes the process seem much more fun. Even better if those are the friends coming along! Then it’s not just on you to do daily oral language practice in real life circumstances. There are various ways you can use the language cards to learn to speak Spanish fast through games.
I came up with a way to make things more challenging. You can only ever move or use a card if you know the vocabulary. Otherwise, you need to google the translation AND find a sentence in which it has been used. For this, you need to cover up either the phrase/word or translation/pronunciation. You can use washi tape for this or post it notes.
Solo travellers like me might not have friends available for all learning cards practices. And if you need a refresher by yourself, try the solitaire method. With your Lingo Cards, you can easily set up a solitaire layout and play the game as you are used to. (I’m sure you’ve played solitaire on a windows computer before).
As these playing cards are not essentially qualifiers for memory cards, you need to use a little more brainpower and imagination to keep the game being quick. Pairs are of the same colour and type. So red heart and spades cards that are both a King would be a pair. Again, type off either the original or translation. If you don’t know the answer, you may peek and then have to put it back again. You can only retrieve the pair again after 3 rounds. That is, if you still remember by that time.
Other Card Games
What you might mostly use the language builder cards for, however, would be typical games, like Poker, Rummy, Skat, Hearts, Bridge or Casino. But of, course drinking games are also a way to go. For one, you could try King.
For this, spread out your deck of cards (minus jokers) around an empty cup (or an unopened can). They should all face down. All players should sit around that circle and have a full cup. Upon their turn, pick a random card and instantly perform the action on the prearranged cheat sheet. If you play with the can, picked cards are pushed under the can’s tab. When it finally plops open, the loser has to drink it in one go. There are tons of variations of this game, too.
Another one is the game Scumbag. The person getting rid of all their cards first wins. Every player gets the same amount of cards. The first player decides whether he plays one card or two of the same value. With every round, the amount of cards placed has to remain the same while the card value has to be higher. You either play or you choose to miss out on the turn. The one playing the highest value gets to start the next round. The last one with remaining cards gets called the scumbag and may start the new game.
This time, however, things get meaner. Depending on their ranking cards are exchanged. The lowest ranked one (scumbag) has to give their highest cards to the King/President and they in turn hand over their lowest cards. The second lowest exchanges with the second highest (you can make up titles and names if you like) and so forth. If one person is left, he may keep his cards or play with the remaining ones.
What’s Included in the Language Cards by Lingo?
A Lingo Cards language cards set includes 54 translations of your chosen language. Pick from Mandarin, Indonesian, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Te Reo Maori or even British, Aussie and Kiwi Slang.
On them, you can find typical greetings, introductions and phrases for eating out, getting directions and finding accommodations. There are no phonetic transcriptions. But words are written as they would be pronounced by an English speaker, so it’s even easier. The price for a deck is $25.00 AUD and can be shipped to US, Australian, New Zealandian or British addresses.
How Good are Lingo Cards for Learning Languages?
Is it the best way to learn Spanish fluently – or any other language for that matter? Not really, but it’s great to learn the very language basics you need to start a conversation during your travels. After all, nothing could be worse than rocking up anywhere in the world and assuming everyone speaks English for your convenience.
You gotta at least know common opening phrases or greetings. It’s a matter of respect and cultural education. To playfully learn through language flash cards, Lingo Cards are a good idea. If you are wondering how to begin to learn Spanish or teach yourself Spanish in an easy way, you can check out the game on instagram for a first look.
The cards come in a handy, travel sized pack. So if you love playing card games anyway and tend to bring them with you to hostels or pubs, they are great for that! Plus, you can use them as cheating cards in case you do forget to say or how to pronounce “la cuenta, por favour”.
Have you ever used flash cards? I would love to hear about your experience.
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