InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.

Topic of the Week: Why Gaming Can Be Key to Second Language Acquisition

Michaela Parisi is the International Baccalaureate and University of Missouri Kansas City Dual Credit French Teacher at Raymore-Peculiar High School. She presented her methods of gaming for second language acquisition at the American Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Foreign Language Association of Missouri conferences in 2019. Her research interests include the use of gaming in the foreign language classroom and the incorporation of technology in the twenty-first-century classroom.    

In today’s classroom, teachers often feel pressure to make learning entertaining. While there is a plethora of activities to engage students in learning a foreign language, gaming has taken the forefront. Because gaming is a staple in students’ lives outside of school, it becomes the perfect tool for language acquisition. From board games to escape rooms to video games, foreign language teachers can harness the fun of gaming to serve as a mechanism for language acquisition. 

Prior to hosting any discussion regarding gaming, it is important to establish two certainties: first, one cannot acquire a language unless one practices it, and two, when practicing a language, there must be an intent to communicate, a negotiation of language. The question then becomes how do games relate to these two certainties? Games require participation and communication that is spontaneous and appropriate for accomplishing an objective. When playing games, students have to communicate with one another and establish their ideas (negotiation of language) in order to work together and win the game.* They discover how to convey the ideas in their head to the other members of their team in the target language. This is why incorporating games into the foreign language classroom is remarkably effective.

As an example, let us consider a game of Pictionary. The goal of player one is to prompt player two to say the target word. Player 1 must use drawing as a language to direct Player 2 towards the target word. Drawing is not the first language of Player 1 (nor is it of Player 2); therefore, Player 1 is guessing what Player 2's understanding of certain drawn images mean. Based on the guesses of Player 2, Player 1 will adjust their drawing to more accurately align with the schema developed by Player 2. The two players work together until they reach mutual understanding and Player 2 correctly deduces the word. Together, the players have co-constructed meaning.

This strategy used in Pictionary is the same strategy students employ while playing a game in the target language. Students have a common goal that must be reached to win the game, such as another player guessing a keyword or concept. To communicate the concept, students must interact with each other in a give-and-take, negotiating the meaning of unfamiliar language to achieve success. 

When deciding on appropriate games for the foreign language classroom, teachers must consider the goal of the game, how students will negotiate meaning, and what language must be interpreted and produced by students. This week’s Activity of the Week provides a sample game for teachers to adapt and use in their own classrooms.

*Single-player games are useful in a different manner. Individual games are useful for interpretive communication, but not necessarily interpersonal communication since there is no negotiation of meaning. For example, in the game Minecraft, players must understand what the word “sand” means. They must understand how they may use sand to build and complete missions. However, players do not necesarily negotiate with others to establish the meaning of “sand” in individual player modes; they must infer the meaning based on a given situation.

Activity of the Week

  • Games that Prompt Language Acquisition: Trio

    This Activity of the Week is based off of a game created by Sarah Serwe, a library professional and French teacher at Vandergrift High School in Austin,Texas. It was written by Michaela Parisi, the author of this week's Topic of the Week.

     “Trio” is a game that can be adapted for many different languages and can be played with language learners of all levels. This simple game increases student vocabulary while enhancing their internal schemata through the classifciation of words into categories and subcategories. Importantly, the grouping of words must be meaningful because the player’s teammates must be in agreeance before announcing their answers. 

    Learning Outcomes:

    Learners will be able to:

    • Use existing knowledge to create robust schemata for target vocabulary words
    • Demonstrate understandign of multiple target vocabulary words at once.

    Mode(s): Presentational, Interpersonal

    Material(s): Trio cards (in French and English)


    1. Divide learners into pairs or small groups. These pairs and small groups will face one another as teams. Provide each set of teams with Trio cards (examples in French and English). Each Trio card consists of three words and one category or conjoining word. These words can be interrelated, such as cat, dog, and fish, or part of a larger phrase, such as rise, set, shine. The goal is to find the word that links the three words. In the examples above, “animal” relates cat, dog, and fish, while “sun” relates rise, set, and shine.

    2a. To start the game, one person from the first team draws a card and reads the three words. Their teammates must infer the word that relates the three words on the card. If the first team finds the correct answer, they score two points. Then, the second team has 30 seconds to respond in one of the following ways:

    1. The second team finds a word in the same category to score a point for their team.
      1. Example: If the first team found the word "animal," the second team may add the word “farm” to score one point.
    2. The second team finds a more precise category to score three points for their team.
      1. Example: If the first team finds the word "animal" to unite the three words (cat, dog, and fish), the second team scores three points if they find a more precise category such as “pets.”

    2b. If the first team does not find the word after one minute, they pass the card to the second team, who has 30 seconds to find the right answer. If no one finds the right answer after 30 seconds, someone reads the right answer, but no one scores any points.

    3. Repeat Steps 1-2 for the allotted time (decided by the teacher).

    4. The team with the most points at the end of the final turn wins.


    After gameplay, teachers may wish to debrief with learners by discussing the cards that were most meaningful and most difficult. This discussion will provide the opportunity for teacher input and clarification.

CASLS Spotlight: Mavericks Congress: Escape to Dinner Worldseries

Last year, CASLS launched a collaborative initiative, the Mavericks Congress, to foster innovation in language and social technology. The initiative is designed to foster networks and relationships across cultural, professional, and institutional domains.

We are excited to announce that we are convening the 2nd Annual Mavericks Congress this July. This year’s Congress, The Escape to Dinner World Series, will bring teams together from diverse professional backgrounds to battle it out for the world-championship title. Teams of competitors will race to solve mixed-reality puzzles in order to locate and arrive at a dinner with other interesting and accomplished professionals from fields within and adjacent to the language professions.

Sponsorship and participation opportunities are available. If interested, please email CASLS Development and Insturctional Strategist Christopher Daradics ( for additional information.

Language Corner

2Ts in a Pod: Cambridge First Mini-Series

Source: Free English Lesson Plans Back to Quick Links


This podcast mini-series investigates the Cambridge B2 First exam. It looks at the different parts of the exam and provides insight useful for teachers. Check this resource out if you teach a Cambridge English Exam preparatory course!

Learn more:

The Ultimate List of Body Parts in German: From Your Head to Your Toes

Source: Fluent U Back to Quick Links


Body parts vocabulary is typically introduced with brevity within the first year of a language learning environment. This resource provides more vocabulary that could enhance Intermediate or Advanced students’ abilities to talk about bodies. Do you teach a course on medical or biological terminology in German? This is a great resource for you!

Learn more: 


Chico Aventurero Busca. El Amor en Los Tiempos de Tinder.

Source: Profe De ELE Back to Quick Links


Providing students with topics they find compelling is a key aspect of creating captivating language learning. This interactive online lesson focuses on the topic of finding love through social media, a topic that will catch the attention of many young adult learners. This resource is useful for teachers looking for new language topics. 

Learn more:

The Arabic Definite Article ال and Solar Letters

Source: The Arabic Learner Back to Quick Links


This article with accompanying video explains how to use the definite article ال in Arabic. This post is the first in a monthly series explaining key grammatical points in Modern Standard Arabic. This resource is useful for teachers looking for materials to augment their pre-existing Arabic textbook or curriculum. 

Learn more:ال-and-solar-letters/

Japanese Pronunciation Challenges (Totally Different from Mandarin Chinese)

Source: Sinosplice Back to Quick Links


Every language poses a different challenge to learners at the varying stages of acquisition. This article dives into the pronunciation challenges in learning Japanese in comparison to those when learning Mandarin Chinese. If you are interested in discovering more about the pronunciation challenges your learners may face, this article is a must read. 

Learn more:

Esports: A Phenomenon Enters the Mainstream - and English Language Teaching

Source: TESOL Blog Back to Quick Links


As esports rise in popularity, there become questions of how it can be utilized in the language teaching classroom. This blog post explains the history of esports for those unfamiliar with the topic and then expands upon how they can be utilized within the modern language classroom. If you’re looking for more innovation and games in your classroom, this post will be interesting to you. 

Learn more:

Professional Development

CARLA Summer Institute Spotlight: Culture as the Core in the Second Language Classroom

Source: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) Back to Quick Links


Culture as the Core in the Second Language Classroom

July 27­–31, 2020

University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

After gaining a deeper understanding of how language-culture-identity informs their teaching, participants will learn how to integrate culture and language learning in their classrooms. By the end of the institute, participants will be able to:

  • Bring everyday culture into language instruction;
  • Apply common frameworks of culture and culture learning;
  • Create integrated language-and-culture learning objectives and lessons;
  • Use authentic materials for teaching culture;
  • Assess culture learning; and
  • Use textbooks for culture learning and unlearning.

Presenters: Martha Bigelow (University of Minnesota) and Kaishan Kong (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)

Register by the Early Bird Deadline: April 24, 2020:

Call: Symposium on Language Pedagogy in Higher Education (SOLPHE) 2020

Source: SOLPHE 2020 Back to Quick Links


The goal of this symposium is to serve as a professional development forum tailored to the needs of postsecondary language educators. The symposium will feature a plenary address by Dr. Bill VanPatten as well as workshops by Dr. Claudia Fernández and Dr. Cori Crane. The call for papers is open until May 1, 2020. Language program directors, graduate students, and faculty of all ranks and languages are welcome to submit proposals on different aspects of language teaching and program administration in higher education settings. The symposium will be held October 2-3, 2020, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

 Learn more: 

Call: Lucero

Source: Lucero Back to Quick Links


The 2019-2020 edition of Lucero invites article submissions on the topic of performance and resistance. A full list of possible topics are available on their Linguist List call page. Articles are due by March 1, 2020.  

Learn more: 

Call: Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics

Source: VIAL Back to Quick Links


The Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics has issued a call for their 2021 edition. Topics are accepted in a variety of disciplines located on the Linguist List call page. Papers must be original empirical research and should not exceed 30 pages.  

Learn more: 

Conference: 50 Years of Multilingual Magic

Source: The Southwest Conference on Language Teaching Back to Quick Links


The Southwest Conference on Language Teaching is hosting its annual conference for the state foreign language teacher associations of Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. The keynote speaker, Akash Patel, will discuss how to connect cultures across and through education. The conference will be held in Anaheim, California, from April 2-5, 2020. 

Learn more:

Conference: Middle East Technical University Language and Cognitive Development Lab Spring School

Source: METU Back to Quick Links


The Middle East Technical University Language will host a three-day training course on psycholinguistic research in collaboration with TheRabLab at the University of Edinburgh. The training includes seven courses on topics linking psycholinguistic theory with practical research skills. The course will be held from May 19-22, 2020, in İzmir, Turkey. This opportunity is recommended to those interested in expanding their linguistic knowledge or branching into a new field. 


Call: People in Language, Vision and the Mind

Source: ONION Back to Quick Links


The first workshop on People in Language, Vision, and the Mind invites paper submissions that discuss how people, their bodies, their faces, and their mental states are described in text. Submissions are welcome in diverse areas including language generation, language analysis, cognitive computing, and affective computing. The call due date is February 21, 2020, and the conference will be held at the Palais du Pharo in Marseilles, France on May 16, 2020. 

Learn more: 


Book: Duoethnography in English Language Teaching

Source: Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence (Eds.) Back to Quick Links


This book uses duoethnography as a primary method of research to investigate reflective practice as a pedagogical approach in English Language Teaching (ELT). The chapters contain a range of duoethnographies from established and emerging teachers and researchers. This book is recommended for those interested in ELT, particularly in Japan where most of the research was conducted.  

Learn more: 

Book: Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Migration Control

Source: Markus Rheindorf and Ruth Wodak (Eds.) Back to Quick Links


This book’s chapters aim to add empirical perspective to the understanding of how language relates to migration within a specific national context. They utilize a combination of multimodal, qualitative, and quantitative analyses to examine a broad range of genres and data related to the voices of migrants.  

Learn more: 

Book: Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Classroom

Source: Kimberly Adilia Helmer Back to Quick Links


This book examines a case study of compulsory Spanish heritage education within the first year of a charter high school with both dominant and non-dominant Spanish teachers. Specifically, this study aims to explore pedagogical techniques that work and do not work with this set of students. This book would be of interest to those teaching a heritage language.  

Learn more: 

Book: The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education

Source: Joel Austin Windle, Danie de Jesus, and Lesley Bartlett (Eds.) Back to Quick Links


This book adds new perspectives from the Global South on how linguistic and discursive boundaries shape educational inequalities. The contexts range from Amazonian missions to Mongolian universities using critical ethnographic and sociolinguistic analyses. This book is recommended to those interested in educational equity. 

Learn more: 

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