Most people who are learning English as a second language are very serious about their studies, and they should be.
But nowhere does it say that you can't have fun while learning!
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.” - Fred Rogers
Studies show that playing with the English language can help you learn more effectively because, the more comfortable you are learning English vocabulary and grammar, the greater your fluency.
This article will introduce a few, more light-hearted aspects of English learning, to help you on your way to becoming fluent in this language you are working so hard to master.
Silly Spoonerisms bring Smiles
William Spooner, or Lord Spooner was an absent-minded tutor at Oxford University who had the unfortunate habit of mixing up syllables. Often, the results were quite funny!
Here is a common, classic spoonerism:
Our lord is a shoving leopard (correctly said: our lord is a loving shepherd)
The idea of a leopard shoving anything is enough to bring laughter about!
Here are a few of Lord Spooner's creations:
"You have hissed all of my mystery lectures" – a sentence supposedly uttered by Lord Spooner. He meant to say 'You have missed all of my history lectures'.
While credited with a large number of hilarious phrases, only the following quote is attributed to him by the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:
“The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer.”
He actually meant 'the rate of wages...' - meaning how much salary employers would have to pay their workers will be a heavy burden.
Speaking in spoonerisms is a great way for you to have fun while becoming fluent in English!
Playing with words in this manner helps train your brain to word in different ways. Try to use these phrases in your daily conversation:
stop chicks (chopsticks)
a knot of poodles (a pot of noodles)
veat and megetables (meat and vegetables)
a blushing crow (a crushing blow, meaning 'a big disappointment')
a well boiled icicle (a well oiled bicycle)
fighting a liar (lighting a fire)
You can even invent some spoonerisms yourself!
NOTE: it is acceptable to change the spelling of spoonerism words so that they make sense when reading them, as long as they sound the same.
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Grow Your Vocabulary with Word Games
Word families are groups of words that end with the same sound, such as bike, like, mike, tyke, and dyke.
Building your vocabulary using this method is sure to strengthen your speaking skills, and can even help you learn how to spell words correctly.
There are thirty seven common word families in the English language, enough to win a few rounds of rhyming words games, even with native speakers of English!
This is an activity in which you speak or write all of the words that belong in a word family. Don't limit yourself to only one- or two-syllable words! To score the most points, you can use words with more syllables.
At, bat, hat, and mat all belong to the same family,but so do caveat, automat and thermostat. Don't know those words? Look them up and then add them to your growing vocabulary list!
To make this game more challenging, you can set a time limit: two minutes to write down all of the family words you know. You can play by yourself or with friends.
Letters of the Alphabet
Of course you know the letters of the alphabet, but why stop at knowing them? You could use these letters as a way to learn more words, even about subjects such as geography, animals or business.
All this activity requires is for you to think of a word related to the subject you have chosen, for every single letter of the alphabet.
Let's say you are learning English as the language of business, and wish to make use of this fun, new learning activity. Your list of words might look something like this:
Administration, Business, Client, Desk, Executive... and so on, all the way to Xenocurrency, Year-to-date and Zoning.
If you don't know of a word for any given letter, look it up in the dictionary or on the Internet!
You don't have to conclude that subject once you've gone all the way through the alphabet. Feel free to start from A anew and find different words.
Of course, once you learn a new word, remember to research all of its related words and use them all at least five times in order to remember them. Learn how English can benefit your career.
Learning English: Similes, Proverbs, Idioms and Slang
Nearly every culture has its own proverbs – short sayings that reflect a common wisdom, or give advice.
The English language has no shortage of such sayings.
'Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all' is an example of such. You can find other proverbs throughout both classic and modern English literature.
A simile is a phrase that compares two objects in an interesting way.
Expressions like: 'as cold as ice', 'as happy as a clam' and 'as tough as nails' are an effective way to add depth and meaning to spoken English.
To make your written English more descriptive and fun, learn and use a few of these phrases each week.
Using similes will help you expand your cultural understanding, a vital aspect of language learning.
The greatest chance for non native students of English to have fun with the language is the idiom.
The English language is full of fun phrases that communicate deep meaning, such as 'you hit the nail on the head!' meaning you have done or said something exactly right.
Will you jump on the bandwagon, improve your English pronunciation by practicing these colorful expressions?
Slang is made up of informal words and phrases, and is more common in spoken English than in English writing.
Of course, there are slang dictionaries available on the Internet, but the best way for you to learn and practise slang is with a native English speaker.
The Internet has so many chat programs and social media websites that offer you the chance to gain fluency and practise speaking skills, as well as learn the most up-to-date slang expressions.
Alliteration is a stylized form of writing in which the first syllable of a series of words have the same first consonant sound.
Can you find the alliteration at the start of this article?
Tongue twisters are a form of alliteration that ESL teachers often use to help their students practice their spoken English. These sometimes silly sentences call for careful pronunciation of English vocabulary in order to be understood.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Games You Can Play to Improve Your English Skills
Here are a few more activities you can engage in to add excitement and fun to your language learning.
You announce a category – person, place or thing, but give no other description. The players may ask no more than twenty questions in order to guess what you are thinking of.
This activity helps with language learning in general, as well as with English pronunciation and grammar.
Host a Spelling Bee
A spelling bee is an activity where the players spell words out loud, rather than writing them down.
To play, simply select words from the vocabulary lists you are studying and challenge other ESL learners to spell them correctly.
The words should get more difficult as you progress through the game, and maybe you could even introduce new words, just to see if other players can spell them phonetically – by how they sound.
If you are one of a group of English learners – maybe you are in an IELTS class, you could take turns hosting this activity.
Join a Book Club or Reading Circle
There is no better way to grow your English vocabulary than reading a book. Joining a reading circle or club expands on the benefits of reading by discussing the book with people who have also read it.
Discussing literature with native speakers of English can help you deepen your reading comprehension and cultivate an appreciation of the language with people who have the same interests you do.
Another way to benefit from group participation in your learning is to join a movie club, or host a movie night in your home.
Watching movies can help improve your English listening skills and, if you read subtitles as you watch, you can improve your English by reading while you listen.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – James Howell
Studying English is indeed serious business. However, like the proverbial Jack, if learning English is only done formally – in a classroom or with a tutor, you could become bored with all the grammar rules and English lessons.
Why not learn English, the most widely spoken language, with a bit of fun and laughter?