Info gap games are one of my absolute favorite language learning activities! They're great when I'm just starting to talk, using my new vocabulary with a lot of help from my language parent.
I found these compare and contrast cards at Dollar Tree, and I've been dying to use them in an info(rmation) gap game. That's where one person has information, and the other person has to ask questions to get the information. It's a lot like playing Battleship or Guess Who.
We set up a barrier between us, and then I picked a card, and set it out. My language parent asked questions-Is it an animal? Is it a person?-until she figured out which card I'd picked. She set it on her side of the barrier, and then she picked a card and I asked questions. When we finished, this is what it looked like. It was great practice for me, especially on colors and animals. The most exciting part for me today was that this was my first time using ASL words I knew to learn one I didn't know. I had a dolphin, but I didn't know the sign. So I said it was a water animal and then pantomimed a fin. My language parent signed "shark," and I said no, and then she signed dolphin. Victory! I also couldn't remember the word for lion, so I signed that it was a biiiiiiig cat and then made a roaring face. She signed "lion" right away! I love staying in the host language and not using English at all in these language sessions. After I go through all that trouble to get my point across, the new words really stick in my head. The fancy word for this communication technique is "circumlocution." talking around the idea when I don't know the word.
As my language grows we will be able to ask more complicated questions about the same cards-Does it have pointed ears? Does it have hooves? I'm also wondering if we could play something like Codenames with them eventually…
This is what the cards looked like originally and after I got through with them:
I cut off the words. I always remove any text from my language learning props, for several reasons. I started out learning an unwritten language, and lots of people that I coach are in that situation as well. Seeing text raises a barrier for our friends that are helping us but don't read. Text also can give the impression that there is a right and a wrong answer, or a right and a wrong way to use something. I definitely don't want to limit my language parent that way! Knowing how they interpret the images from their cultural viewpoint is the goal, not getting them to describe the things the way I would from my American point of view.
For info gap games, you need two sets of the same things-objects, cards, drawings, whatever. I cut my two sets differently, so that if they got mixed together I could easily sort them back out.
You can definitely make your own drawings for info gap games, but I don't advise people spend too long on that. I can be really tempted to say, oh, I can't have a language session today, I need to draw these pictures first! Or, I can't go out and say hello to people and chat with them, I have to color this clip art! There are lots of great excuses to avoid getting out into our new cultures, but they're just distractions from our real goals. Beware!
What are your favorite info gap games? If you have some you've found or made, please share them in the comments or email them to me at email@example.com. I'd love to have a bunch to share with other people growing into new languacultural worlds!