Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Are you a big game player?

Have you ever played games with others and felt lost?

If you have ever tried to play a game in English and felt confused or like you couldn’t keep up, you’re not alone.

We’re going to look at why learning games in a new language and new culture can be difficult.

You will also learn how to overcome that frustration and turn this into a positive learning experience.

Get Your Transcripts Today!

Make sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.
Subscribe and get the transcripts delivered by email.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to subscribe and save 50%

We have a listener question about games, and this is a great one to discuss.

Hi ladies,

I have question that doesn’t relate to the course, and I’m hoping you can help me. I have been learning English for many years, and I understand that there’s formal and informal English. I do understand that. However when I go to play a game, it’s like a whole other language that I don’t understand.

I can’t understand games or how to play them and I’m talking about options like Metagame, Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples, and Pictionary just to name a few. There are many more games like this that I struggle with. These games include so many questions, and I see people playing them in front of me but I still don’t understand how to play them.

I don’t know where the problem is as I’m very frustrated when it comes to these games. It feels like I haven’t learned English at all when I see people around me playing them, and I can’t figure them out at all. Others seem to find these games to be a piece of cake, and I’m frustrated because I can’t keep up.

Do you have any ideas or solutions to help me tackle the problem? I would really appreciate your help!

Thank you very much,


What Makes These Games So Difficult?

This is a great listener question, and you can probably understand firsthand how frustrating this can be.

You may feel as if you are advancing in your English speaking, and then you go to play a game with a group and you feel frustrated.

This is taking English to another level, and it’s also a very cultural thing if you think about it.

So what is it that makes these games so difficult or challenging when you are trying to learn to play them?

There are a couple of reasons as to why playing games can be so difficult even if you are advanced in your English speaking.

  • They are SO cultural: There are so many cultural references in these games. Many of them are a part of the culture in the US, and that may be hard to learn in the context of a game. You may not pick up on the cues or hints given in a game that is about a culture that you are just learning. This will take time, but if you stick with it you will learn them.
  • They are played quickly: When you are learning a lesson in English, you likely take your time to master things. When you are playing these games, you are trying to complete something quickly. In most instances or games, you are trying to finish something or get an answer out quickly. This pace can be very difficult to keep up with. You will get the hang of it, but the pace alone can be difficult to keep up with.
  • They are personal: These games are about connecting with people, and that’s not always easy at first. There may be one group of people that “gel” really well and use that to their benefit in these games. They may have inside jokes and really know how to talk to each other on this level. Don’t get frustrated if you find this personal part of games frustrating at first–if you stick with it then you will make some great connections too.

You can see why playing games may be frustrating at times, but there’s a way to overcome each challenge.

The more you play them, and the more patient you are, the easier and more enjoyable they will become.

The games named by the listener are very specific types of games.

We’ll get into what to consider with each game next, but know that if you are patient and positive you can master these.

Looking At Examples of Common Games

It may be helpful to you to look at each of the games mentioned in the listeners question.

You can start to see how each game may be challenging, but then how you can overcome that difficulty.

The thing about games is that they can be an excellent way to learn about culture and to practice your English.

You will see that they are often used in classes as a great way to enhance your learning.

These make for a fun way to learn the language, as well as to integrate into the culture.

So let’s look at each of the examples so that you have an understanding of how such games may work.

  • Cards Against Humanity/Apples to Apples: Though they are very different games in terms of context, they have some similarities in their approach. Both of these games have you the player trying to guess what the main player would find to be an appropriate answer. Using the cards you have in your hand, you are trying to guess at what the main player would take as an appropriate answer. You are competing against other players to try to win that “hand” and get your answer picked. An example might be the main player says “Things I like to eat” as the category. You may have cards that say french fries, a pretty dress, or so many other options. You decide what you think this person would choose. Would they want a humorous answer or a realistic one? They choose their favorite of all the cards without knowing who submitted them.
  • Pictionary: This is a bit simpler in its approach, but it’s also very based in the culture. You pick a card as the main player, and it gives you something that you have to draw. You then take your best approach at drawing this item and other people have to try to guess what it is. This can be difficult for you if you aren’t much of an artist, and it can also be hard if the item is based on the culture and you aren’t sure about it. This can be a lot of fun for you to practice your drawing and guessing, and it almost always ends in laughs.
  • Charades: This is similar in approach to Pictionary in that you have to pick something and then get others to guess what it is. However in this case you are coming up with the idea for your turn on your own. You are then acting it out to try to get other players to guess it. This too will almost always end in laughter and fun, as some of the guesses can be so far off.

You’ve seen now why these games can be so difficult at times.

You can also see where there is opportunity to get involved and really learn more about the culture.

Though these games may be challenging at first, they can be an excellent way to learn English and have some fun in the process.

How Can You Start Really Enjoying These Games?

So we’ve helped you to see why games can be difficult at first.

You can understand this and you’ve even seen some good examples of how common games work.

What can you do to get in on the fun and stop feeling intimidated?

This is where you can get involved, move past your uncertainty, and make these an enjoyable way of learning and interacting.

  • Be up to date on culture: This is good for you to integrate into learning the language anyhow. Take the time to watch TV, news, current events, and read books about this culture. Take it upon yourself to learn more about the culture, and it will help to educate you and make these games easier.
  • Watch a round: Rather than jumping right in, instead say “Can I sit this one out and watch?” Watch how the players are playing the game and then ask questions. Don’t be shy about it because this is how you learn!
  • Ask again to explain the rules: Sometimes the rules go a little fast, and it can be hard to keep up. Don’t be afraid to say something like “I didn’t catch that rule. Can you explain again?” If it will help then have the other players try to model it for you. Whatever you can do to understand the rules at the beginning will help you to have a more enjoyable experience.
  • Don’t get frustrated! The cultural component of language takes things to a new level, so give yourself a chance to get there. You will start to pick up on the jokes and all the fun as you continue to focus on culture. This shouldn’t discourage you in your English ability because it has nothing to do with it. Be patient with yourself and know that you will pick it all up with some practice.

These tips can help you to get the most out of these games, and make them a really enjoyable part of learning the culture.

Be patient with yourself, take it slow, talk to others when you don’t understand something, and go in with a positive attitude.

You will learn to love games as a fun way to learn English and to integrate into the culture.


Don’t shy away from games or get frustrated, and try to look at them as a new way of learning.

Maybe even ask a friend or two to practice playing a game night with you for some extra help.

Try playing them in a slower way so you can catch onto things, and this may take away some of the stress.

Games are a GREAT way to learn, and if you take your time to learn them you can really enjoy them.

Try a new game and you will find that you learn a lot, practice your English in a fun way, and even make some great connections along the way.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X