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Taking Language Learning on the Go with a Road Trip Scavenger Hunt

by Calli Zarpas
Learn languages by going on a scavenger hunt

I have a love for long car trips. When I was younger, my family drove everywhere. For us a 6-hour road trip was nothing. 9-hours in the car was doable, and 12-hours was where things started to feel pretty long. My family lived all over the U.S. including Ohio, Vermont, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, and California so whenever we wanted to see our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents we had to buckle up and get on the road. I’ve even crossed the country from Virginia to California twice! But, I don’t think I would’ve survived half of those road trips without all the games and gadgets that my parents bought to keep us distracted. 

One of my favorite games we used to play was the alphabet game where you had to find all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z. I always got a little rush if I found one of the harder letters like  “J” or “Z.” It was the same when we tried to find license plates from each of the fifty states. You might as well have told me that I won the lottery when I saw something crazy like Alaska or Hawaii. 

Recently, I’ve been transported back to those car trip scavenger hunt games with my family because of Rosetta Stone’s extended learning feature called “Seek & Speak.” It’s a really cool program where you can use your camera to turn everyday objects into language practice. I love it because you get to choose between different categories you want to focus on. For example, there is one challenge called “Ready for Class” and you have to search for five things you could use in the classroom. Once you’ve found anything that is considered a classroom item, you hold your camera over the item and the app will tell you what it is called. It’s pretty fun and great for learning words you don’t know yet.

One of my favorite games we used to play was the alphabet game where you had to find all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z.

I’m a visual learner so it’s pretty much a dream come true for me to be able to just point my camera at something and then instantly know the word for it in another language. Since I loved Seek & Speak so much I decided to add it to our Cabin Fever Reliever Challenge, but I didn’t want to stop there. I decided I wanted to share another activity with you if you love Seek & Speak and want to try out some similar language-learning activities on the go. 

Due to my love of games during long car rides I decided to create a foreign-language scavenger hunt that can be easily used to distract anyone during car trips. This idea fell perfectly because my boyfriend and I were heading to the coast for the weekend and we had an hour car ride ahead of us. So, before the trip, I crafted a list of 15 things that we had to spot along the ride and we wrote them all down in French. Since we played in French, it wasn’t much of a learning lesson for my boyfriend, but it certainly helped me with those pesky feminine and masculine articles. There are a bunch of rules when trying to remember French articles, but there are also exceptions that trip me up, like lycée (high school) and musée (museum) which are both masculine even though they end in a very feminine “ée.”

Also sometimes I just mix things up. When I’m talking I’m honestly not thinking about the gender of the word I’m using. I’m just trying to get my point across and usually even if you use the wrong article, the French will still understand you. So, even though during this game I knew all of the French words we used, I didn’t know all of the articles, so if I ever called out a word in the wrong gender I wouldn’t get the point and would have to try again later. In our game we were looking for: 

  1. Un château d’eau (water tower, though it’s literally translated as water castle!)
  2. Une vache (cow)
  3. Un mouton (sheep)
  4. Un chien (dog)
  5. Un lac (lake)
  6. Un vélo (bicycle)
  7. Une voiture orange (an orange car)
  8. Un chat (cat)
  9. Une maison rouge (a red house)
  10. Un fermier (farmer)
  11. Un cheval (horse)
  12. Un lycée (high school)
  13. Une ville dont le nom comporte plus de 9 lettres (a town whose name has 9 or more letters)
  14. Une église (church)
  15. Une grange (barn)

A lot of the words we chose were things you might see in the countryside because we knew we’d be passing through a lot of fields, but if you’re driving through town you might try words like une boulangerie (bakery), un supermarché (grocery store), or un barbier (barber’s shop). If you’re driving on the highway you could try looking for words like un camion (truck), un péage (a toll), or une voiture de police (police car). 

If you’ve been taking walks these days, you can also try a scavenger hunt with your family or roommates while walking around your neighborhood. You could look for un terrain de jeu (playground), un papillon (butterfly), or un rosier (rosebush). But to create your list, you just have to think of 15-20 things you could find wherever you are and then translate into the language of your choice. For my boyfriend and I, we decided the first person to point out the words gets a point. Like I said earlier I had to say it in the gender for it to count.

Honestly, if you have already tried and Seek & Speak and enjoyed it this is a great game to always have handy, especially with kids, when running errands, taking a long car trip, or just walking around your neighborhood. My boyfriend wasn’t too keen to play in the beginning, but once we started playing he got so competitive and ended up beating me 9-6, a score he wasn’t even happy with. I know this is going to be a game we continue to play in the car and I hope to keep switching up the languages as we go! Have fun!

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