April 25, 2019
Pablo Roman

In previous posts, I’ve written extensively about how simple it is to do Crosstalk, and especially about the fact that it’s as simple as having a regular conversation. I also suggested different topics to try if you’re stuck and don’t know what to talk about. By now you should be quite prepared for hundreds and hundreds of hours of language learning and practicing using Crosstalk.

However, Crosstalk doesn’t have to be only conversation. In addition, there are a number of activities and games that you can try to make your Crosstalk sessions more fun. In this post I’m going to talk about all the different interesting and fun activities and games that I’ve tried doing with Crosstalk that worked for me.

In the previous post about Crosstalk, I introduced some activities. I mentioned that it’s a lot of fun to imagine and talk about your ideal house, city, and/or vacation. That’s an example of one kind of activity that you can try, as well as going to a market or a park with your Crosstalk partner, and just looking around and talking about the things that you see.

In the rest of this post I’ll introduce some new ideas that you can try.

Doing Things Together

To increase conversation topics, you can try cooking together. You can teach each other how to cook a recipe that you know, a recipe from your country, or do some baking together.

Teach Each Other Some Ability

Think of an ability you have, that your partner may not have, and ask your partner to do the same. You can teach each other how to juggle, how to do some handcraft, or visual art, or any other kind of ability that you have that not everybody has.

A few other activities include party tricks. You can learn to perform some party tricks before your Crosstalk session, and show them to your partner. Party tricks are a lot of fun, and they are usually very simple. Most tricks just require you to have some common objects like coins, a glass of water, candles, or matches, etc. You can try out these tricks to have some fun and teach each other how to do them.

Card Games

You can show each other how to play card games that you play in your country, and try playing with them for a few rounds. Card games are very interesting because you’re teaching each other something about your culture, and you’re also playing a game, so you’re engaged, having fun, and learning something from the other person’s country. I don’t recommend playing card games for a long period of time, though. Once you learn the rules very well you can play most games without really talking that much, or what you say boils down to just mentioning the name or the number in the cards that you draw. The vocabulary can become quite repetitive. If you feel that you get to the point where there’s not much variety in the language being spoken, or there’s not a lot of actual conversation happening, then you are ready to move on. Try a different game or a different activity altogether.

Charades

You can each prepare a list of words to play charades, or use an app or website that suggests words to play with. Normally, when you play charades, you use only gestures, but in this case what you want to do is to explain the concept (movie, animal, phrase, title, etc.) with words, but without saying the name. This is a fun game to play.

20 Questions

I honestly just love to play this game even if I’m not trying to learn a language. It’s great to play it when doing Crosstalk, but it’s also a lot of fun to play with friends at any time. This is a game in which you try to guess the character that your partner is thinking, but you are only allowed to ask up to 20 yes or no questions. First, each partner comes up with a person, either a real person or a fictional character. You just have to make sure that it’s a character that the other person is likely to know. Then, the other person has to ask yes or no questions. You’re only allowed to reply to those questions with “yes” or “no,” but, in practice, sometimes you may need to give a bit more detail to make sure that you don’t lead the other person to false conclusions. Sometimes you’ll say things like: “I’m not sure,” “I think so,” or “This person is not known for doing that.” The questions should always prompt a yes or no answer. You are allowed up to 20 questions, and if you get to 20 and you haven’t managed to guess who the character is (guessing a character also counts as a question) then you’ve lost the game. The possibilities are endless!

Commercial Card Games

There are two other games that I’ve played that I want to mention. These are commercially available games that are sold in stores. They are card games so they are quite easy to carry around. The first game is my favorite one, and it’s called “Once Upon a Time” (https://amzn.to/2GmyTMx). This is a quite popular game and it’s even been translated to other languages. In this game there are winners and losers, and although you’re trying to win the game, at the same time you’re building a story together with all the other players. It also works well with just two players. You do need to use some imagination, because you will be coming up with your own story. The mechanics of the game allow you to tell a story together, and to take the story to a satisfying ending. The cards of the game contain elements that are commonly found in fairy tales. You have locations and characters, like “frog,” “king,” or “swamp,” but also plot elements like “somebody returns” or “betrayal.” You also have ending cards, and every player has to try to bring the story in the direction of their ending. The person who manages to play the ending card successfully wins the game. Many times, the stories that you create are actually quite interesting, and it’s a great game to get a lot of good practice listening to the other person speak their language. It’s also very good for learning vocabulary that doesn’t come up often in other situations.

The second commercial game that is also fun to play is called “Dream On” (https://amzn.to/2HUkbie). This game is not a competitive game, but rather a collaborative game. You get two minutes to create a story that’s as long as possible, using the cards in your hands. You go on building a stack with the cards that you use to tell the story. Each of the cards has a drawing that you can interpret in any way you want. You have to come up with a story, which supposedly is happening inside a dream, and you need to add cards to the story as fast as possible. You’re done when a timer runs out. The challenge, and the way you score points, is by remembering the story. You take the stack of cards, and without looking at them, the players alternate trying to remember the next card one at a time in the story. You get a certain amount of points for each card.

To play this game, your level in the language needs to be advanced enough, because this game is all about speaking quickly, so you need to be able to understand your partners when they speak fast, and they’ll need to understand you too. If you are at an intermediate level you can probably play it, and it’s also a lot of fun.

Alternative Uses

Simply grab any object that you may have laying around, and imagine other uses for it. This is a game that requires a lot of imagination and often children are better at playing than adults. For example, you could grab a glass, and say: “this could be used as a telescope, or as a hat,” or anything else you can think of. There are no rules or limitations about the uses that you can come up with. You can go back and forth with your partner, each person coming up with one use at a time.

Yes And…

As one of my favorites, “Yes And” is a game that takes a little bit of practice. It’s used a lot in improvisational theater because it teaches you many of the basics of improv. The idea of this activity is telling a story together, or even acting a story together. The way you do that is that each person alternates to add one step to the story. The reason this activity is called “Yes And” is because, for this to work, every participant is always required to accept the reality that the other participants establish and never deny it. If your partner said, “we are at a swimming pool,” you are not supposed to then add, “oh no, no, but actually we weren’t at a swimming pool.” For this game to work, you have to accept what the other person says and then add something to it. (In the swimming pool example, you could say “Yes, and we saw people swimming laps” to continue the story.) This is where it gets really fun to play. You alternate adding steps to the story, and most times you build a story together about something impossible that happened. If you are in a private location you can stand up and act out the story and become the characters in the story. If you are in a public place, you can simply tell the story and draw it if necessary for your level in the language. One thing that I recommend is to have a scenario prepared before doing this activity. When I did it, I prepared the beginning in a single sentence, and then we improvised from there. My scenarios were really simple things like: “we go on a sailing trip” or “we get on a spaceship.”

Pencil and Paper Games

Another activity that has worked quite well for me are pencil and paper games. You have probably played some of these at some point. These are very simple games that can be played without preparation with just a sheet of paper and a pen (or pencil, obviously). You can go to www.papg.com , where you can find a lot of ideas for different games to try. Like with the card games, you will be speaking a lot at the beginning when you are explaining the rules to each other, and when playing the first few rounds of the game. With some of the games, you’ll realize that after playing for a while you don’t really need to talk that much, or that the vocabulary you’re using becomes quite limited, so at that point you’ll want to move on.

To Wrap It Up

This is it. These are all the different activities and games that I’ve tried when doing Crosstalk that worked really well for me. I hope you give them a try and share your results with us. You don’t have to use all of them. You can choose the ones that you find the most interesting and stick to using the ones that turn out to be most fun and effective to do. In particular, I recommend trying out at least a few of the activities that you can keep doing indefinitely like Yes And, Once Upon a Time, Dream On, Charades, and 20 Questions, since these have the most potential to fill hours and hours of conversation. With these games and activities you’ll be sure to never run out of things to say and do with your Crosstalk partners, while helping you get exposure to a huge variety of vocabulary. Now the only thing left to do is to go and try these out!

Posted By Pablo Roman | Dreaming Spanish

I fell in love with learning languages while living in Japan. After learning Japanese to proficiency without traditional studying, I decided that a better way of learning languages is possible and I wanted to look for it. After one year in Bangkok learning Thai and experiencing a much more natural input-based method to learn languages, I decided that I wanted to help popularize these kinds of methods. In 2017, I started producing my own content that people all over the world can enjoy while learning.

Check out The Dreaming Spanish with Pablo video series here.


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