Best ways to build vocabulary in a foreign language

Dog is le chien in French

We learned new words through Discovery Learning

I am pretty sure that none of us had parents who, when we were very young, gave us lists of words to learn by next week. What generally happened is that we would point at something that we wanted to know the name of, such as a dog, and our parents said “Dog” and we repeated “Dog”. This is form of learning is called Discovery Learning  and it is the natural way we built our vocabulary when we were small.

Learning new words with Discovery Learning…Eureka!

Discovery Learning is when we discover what we want to know, when we want to know it. In these moments our minds are incredibly receptive to new information because they are actively seeking it. Some scientists call this the Eureka moment, or light bulb moment or Aha! moment. We have all felt it, perhaps when trying to crack a crossword problem or trying to recall someone’s name and it’s extremely powerful. But how can we harness it?

Learning foreign words with Discovery Learning

Build vocabulary with Discovery Learning

Eureka! I think I’ve got it!

The power of Discovery Learning is widely accepted. The problem is that replicating Discovery Learning in the classroom is notoriously difficult. How do you hand over the initiative of learning to your students – so they learn what they want to learn – and it still coincides with what the teacher wants to teach them! It is tricky.

But not impossible!

Auto-learning Language Game uses Discovery Learning to build vocabulary

As a games designer, I was frustrated with how slowly my own children were learning new words. All of the language resources I had bought for them were ineffective and, if I am

Me and my daughters!

honest, they didn’t enjoy them anyway. So I looked to build an MFL Language Game concept that would allow them to build their vocabulary and make sentences without the need for a teacher to sit in on the game. In essence I wanted to create a game that generated hundreds of moments where they needed to learn foreign words to score points – and then discovered them through playing. We played around with different game concepts with scraps of paper around the kitchen table – but the light bulb switched on when we played our first game of KLOO.

Vocabulary Building Game

Learn Spanish words by labeling items

Use KLOO cards to learn Spanish words

How effective is it? In a single game of 25 minutes a typical player (child or adult), will learn 15 – 30 words without ever feeling they are studying or working. It just comes naturally. Many teachers will tell you how challenging it is to motivate some students to learn 20 words by next week or even next month through usual vocabulary building techniques. So to be able to build vocabulary by hundreds of words, just by playing a game is increasingly valued by more and more MFL teachers..

What foreign words would I learn?

The vocabulary for KLOO games are high frequency words (HFW) chosen by teachers to meet the needs of the curriculum and are also deemed to be most useful. With one deck of KLOO cards you can make tens of thousands of sentences in French or Spanish. You’ll have a lot of fun too. Watch this two minute video to see how it all works!

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