This is my favorite Spanish game to play when practicing new Spanish vocabulary and grammar at home. It’s a great way to simulate real-life Spanish conversations, particularly during a pandemic when it’s harder to go out and practice with people face-to-face.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this series, flashcards are great for reviewing Spanish vocabulary and phrases. The problem is that they can get really repetitive. For example, in conversations, you don’t just have to know the word “wingspan” by itself; if you ever find yourself using that word in real life, you’re probably going to end up having to use it in a way that isn’t rehearsed.
So this game that I’m going to show you will help you prepare for that.
How To Set Up the Game
First of all, you need to have two stacks of index cards. One of them consists of the Spanish flashcards you’re practicing with, specifically the ones that are due to review that day in your Spanish flashcard system.
Besides that, you also have a stack of about 15 cards that just have a conversation topic on them. Here’s a list of the conversation topics you might put on those cards:
• Conspiracy theories
• Celebrities / public figures
• My group of friends when I was in school
• The weirdest person I call a friend
• What makes me angry
• Favorite books
• Things that are wrong with my home
• Favorite movies/shows
• What I would do at a reunion of extended family
• A skill I’d love to have
• Guilty pleasures
• Strange things about the people I work with
• Memorable vacations
• Childhood pets
• Dream job
Shuffle this list of topics, and then draw one of these cards at random. Set that card in front of yourself for the rest of the time you’re reviewing the flashcards today.
How To Play
Start going through your Spanish flashcards at random. As you draw each one, imagine that you’re talking with a group of Spanish-speaking friends about the topic that you’ve set in front of you. Try to come up with a sentence that uses the word or phrase that you’ve drawn, but that would also fit in to a conversation about this topic.
For example, let’s say that the topic you’ve drawn is “What I would do at a reunion of extended family.” You should imagine that you and a friend are talking about what you might do if you were at a big family reunion.
Now, start drawing Spanish cards at random. In each case, try to create a sentence that fits into the conversation.
As an example, I’ve drawn a few of my own cards here at random:
• with each other / consigo
• to get up / levantarse
• it was quite a challenge / fue todo un reto
Here are some sentences that might fit into the topic:
• Creo que hay ciertos primos que no hablarían consigo. (I think that there are some cousins who wouldn’t talk with each other.)
• Hasta durante esos eventos yo suelo levantarme muy temprano, aunque los demás se levantan tarde. (Even during those events I tend to get up very early, even though the rest get up late.)
• Yo tengo tantos primos que si alguien lleva a una nueva persona (un novio por ejemplo), conocer a todos es casi imposible… es todo un reto. (I have so many cousins that if someone brings a new person, a fiancé for example, getting to know everyone is almost impossible… it’s quite a challenge.)
So as you can see, this game is challenging, but it’s challenging in almost exactly the same way that it would be challenging in real life. After all, your flashcards consist of words and phrases that you want to be able to use in real-life contexts. This game does a fairly good job of simulating that!
Now, what I just showed you is Level 1 of the game. To play Level 2 of the game, draw 2 cards at a time and try to use both in one sentence.
For example, let’s say I drew these two cards at the same time:
“I bet that…” / Apuesto que…
• “he isn’t cooperating” / se niega a cooperar
I might come up with the sentence Si nosotros le pidiéramos a un primo que nos ayudara a preparar la comida, y si se negara a cooperar, apuesto que lo trataríamos mal durante el resto del evento. (If we were to ask a cousin to help us prepare food, and if he didn’t cooperate, I bet that we’d treat him badly for the rest of the event.)
OK, that was a VERY long sentence example, but I drew these two cards at random and had to come up with something. This is the first example I could think of, and, admittedly, it was somewhat challenging to piece it together in Spanish on the fly.
Ideally, that’s how the game will be for you. Sometimes your sentences will be short, sometimes they’ll be long; sometimes it will be easy to come up with a sentence, and sometimes it will be very challenging… just like in real life!
As you play this Spanish game, make sure you’re following all the other important advice on using flashcards that I’ve given in the first article in this series, such as saying the sentences out loud.
Also, when you’re playing this game, you’re going to come up with some really strange and creative sentences. When you come up with a sentence that’s really interesting, or that you want to remember, or even a sentence where you’re not quite sure if your Spanish is accurate, I recommend writing it down. This is great material for showing to your Spanish coach, or any other native speaker who’s dedicated to helping you become fluent. She’ll be able to verify or correct your sentences.
If you don’t yet have a Spanish coach, the native-speaking linguists on our staff are the best in the world at what they do, and they’d love to play these games with you. We specialize in helping Spanish students go from mediocre to speaking deeply and personally with their Spanish-speaking loved ones. You can apply for Spanish coaching here.
Want to see how spaced repetition can help you finally become fluent in Spanish? Start the Accelerated Spanish course for free.