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I like Scrabble for learning a foreign language or enriching my vocabulary in my native language. What other games also help you do that?

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6 Answers 6

In a Pickle (English). For up to six players.

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Can a giraffe fit in a phone booth? Does a sofa fit in a shopping cart? It all depends on how you size it up in this game of creative thinking and outrageous scenarios. Try to win a set of cards by fitting smaller things into bigger things — there's some juice in a pickle, in a supermarket, in a parking lot. Play the fourth word card to claim the set, unless one of your opponents can trump with a larger word. The player with the most sets at the end is the big winner! Includes 300 cards and instructions.

I can tell from personal experience that the game is quite fun, for native and non-native speakers alike. It encourages thinking outside the box, re-interpreting words and defending your interpretation. Someone puts a president in a jam, but then someone else puts that jam in a glass. Or someone plays the card with the word "universe", thinking that no one can beat that, but then the next person plays the card with the word "dictionary" and wins the set (after all, "universe" is a word in a dictionary).

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Fictionary (Balderdash)

There's a game called Fictionary by wikipedia, variations of which are known as Balderdash and under several other names. In it, one player selects a very uncommon word from a dictionary and tells the other players what the word is. It should be a word that none of the other players know the meaning of. Then the player that picked the word writes the dictionary definition on a small piece of paper, and the other players all try to come up with a definition of the word that sounds plausible and also write these definitions on pieces of paper. These pieces of paper are then shuffled by the first player and read in random order. All of the other players select which meaning of the word they find the most plausible (but they are not allowed to select their own invention). Once everyone has made their selection, these selections are revealed. Every player (other than the first player) gets a point if their definition was selected by another player or if they selected the correct definition. Then it is the next player's turn to pick a word from the dictionary, and the game continues.

The best part of the game is the insane word definitions that you sometimes can't resist writing down, even though you know they will not attract any votes.

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Fun game, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it for learning a language; it relies on words so obscure that none of the players knows them, which tend not to be the most useful for someone learning the language to learn, since, well, most native speakers won't even know those words. –  Brian Campbell Feb 9 '11 at 22:40
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Very true - but the question was also about enriching your vocabulary, and in theory it's good for that. However, in practice the fake explanations are often more memorable than the true ones, so it doesn't really work that well. –  Erik P. Feb 10 '11 at 15:33

Quiddler

http://www.toycrossing.com/quiddler/basic-rules.shtml (follow the link to see the rules)

is "a cross between Scrabble and Rummy" that might suit your needs - it's just a deck of cards with letters on really, so you could probably make your own if you needed to, and it'd be good for playing on trains too!

I enjoyed it the few times I played it, though it suffers from all the same problems as Scrabble: one player with a phenomenal vocabulary can easily outmatch the rest of table; plus you will definitely need a good dictionary on hand to resolve disputes!

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+1 like it, more easily carried and cheaper to scrabble. Thank you. –  hhh Feb 9 '11 at 20:33
    
Think about which kind of game would you come up if you could play poker with this kind of cards? A-1, B-2, C-3,...,25-Z and then color cards 1-12 with red, 14-25 with blue and 13 would be a poker. Again but with two other colours. Is it already a poker or Quiddler-Scrabble-poker? Reuse at the best :) –  hhh Feb 9 '11 at 20:42
    
My wife and I tried Quiddler but we lost interest pretty quickly. On many hands one or both players are in a position to lay down their cards immediately after the deal. I should post a question about good alternate rules. –  Ben Jackson Mar 3 '11 at 8:58
    
@Ben - Yeah, I kind of agree. I was in the fortunate position of being a power Scrabble enthusiast at a table of non-word-gamey people, so I pretty much destroyed the competition, and everyone swore never to play me again! Having said all that I think it's still a fairly good answer to the original question, asking for a game that would let non-native-speakers practice their vocabulary in a fun way... –  thesunneversets Mar 3 '11 at 17:24

Why Did the Chicken...? (English). For up to eight players.

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Each round, you'll have two minutes to create funny answers for a randomly generated riddle. But know your audience: One player will be judging answers instead of writing them! The judge's choices for the two best answers earn points. When the game's over, tally up your points to see who's the life of the party.

So basically, each round there's:

  • a randomly drawn question card, e.g.
    • "What do you get when you cross ... with ...?"
    • "What is the difference between ... and ...?"
    • "What did ... say to ...?"
  • and two randomly drawn noun cards to fill in the blanks.

And then whoever turns that into the funniest joke within two minutes, earns points. There are 20 different question cards and over 300 different noun cards.

The game can be useful in improving both your active vocabulary (by trying to come up with the funniest joke) and your passive vocabulary (by trying to understand other's jokes and wordplays).

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Quizzle

I have a board game called Quizzle in Dutch. I couldn't find the English name - I'm not sure it even exists in English. The idea is, every player has an 8x8 square board in front of them and places letters and "black squares" on it; players take turns selecting one or multiple letters that they can use, and then every player has to use a copy of that letter on their board. This yields a crossword-like arrangement on every player's board. At the end of the game, you get points for every horizontally or vertically oriented valid Dutch word delimited by either the edge of the board or the black squares.

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Bananagrams

Though it may be too similar to Scrabble, as an answer to your question, in Bananagrams your playing a more or less solo scrabble board. Playing tiles to make words in a "crossword"/Scrabble pattern. When playing with others, there's a speed feel because when a player uses up their last tile, they yell "peel!" and everyone else is forced to take another tile and added it to their pile of tiles. It's pretty enjoyable. I've rarely seen a game won by someone making a come back, once you're beating everyone a win is almost guaranteed.

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