Teahing Speaking Skill through Language Games



Abstract: One of the language skills that must be mastered by any foreign language learner is the ability to speak or communicate in the target language fluently. However most of the research finding has shown that most of the students of the English as a Foreign Language are quite difficult to improve their English speaking ability since they are accustomed to use their native language in their daily life. Based on that condition, thr writer in this article tries to solve the problem by offering one teaching strategy which is language games. Language games is believed can give the positive effect and joyful learning to the students in developing their speaking skill.

Key Words: teaching, speaking language games

I. Introduction

One of language skills that must be mastered by any foreign language learner

is the ability to speak or communicate in the target language. In KTSP Curriculum, it is clearly stated that one of the objectives of the English subject in Junior High School is developing the ability to communicate in English, either in written or oral form which covers listening, speaking, reading and writing. Unfortunately the fact has shown that the students are quite difficult to improve their speaking ability because they are accustomed to use their native language language in their daily life than using English. This is the reason why we can not deny the fact that the students still considered speaking skill as the most difficult skill to be mastered. In class, we as teachers often find the students can hardly use English for communicative objectives even in the simple form or we may find the students who are able to point the answer of the question on a text but they can not explain their reason in choosing the answer. It is also evident that in class, the students have limited time to practice their speaking skills, and it resulted on their ability to use the target language, as the old saying “Practice makes perfect”. Ur (1996:121) also states some problems that may prohibit the students to develop their speaking skill, which are inhibition, lack of ideas sy, low participation, and students; preference to use their mother language.

Based on those conditions, in this article, the writer tries to solve the problem by offering one teaching technique for teaching speaking which is language games. The reason why the writer purposes language games because games can be a very useful teaching technique for the effective and joyful learning. Games also believed can give the positive effect on the students’ interest and motivation in studying English as well as to increase their speaking ability. Steinberg ( as cited in Arifin,2003) emphasized that games are viable method to achieve many educational objectives such as reinforcement, review, reward, relax, inhibition, reduction, attentiveness, retention and motivation.

II. Discussion

2.1 Definition of Language Games

The term of “language games” refers to the models of primitive language that

Invent to clarify the working of language in general. It refers to games that children which enable them to learn the language (Wittgenstein as cited in Shawver). So it can be said that language games not only function as time filling activities but also they can bring some educational values that enable the children to learn the language. While Mc Cabe (1992) defines a language games as a spoken routine for two or more players, meant to be repeated many times. This implies that such repetition will enable the children to communicate effectively since playing language games will help the children to develop language and thought. In the activities of language games, the children will develop their ability to say what they mean to say and to express themselves clearly.

From the definition above, it can be seen clearly that language games do not only provide supportive activities and practices that can motivate the students to interact and communicate, but games can also create opportunities for students to acquire the language in a meaningful way. In short, it can be said that language games are able to help students use and practice the target language in a relaxed way.

2.2 The Benefit of Using Language Games

In the previous discussion, it is explained that as a teaching technique, language

games are not just time filling activities in the class, but also have a great educational value. W.R.Lee (in Uberman,2002) holds that most language games make learners use the language instantly without thinking about the correct form of the language itself. So at this phase, the language games can lower students’ anxiety in using the target language, they are also highly motivating and entertaining so that the shy students will get more opportunities to express their opinion and feeling.

Further suppport comes from Zdybiewska (as cited in Uberman,2002), she believes that games can be a good way in practicing the target language that being learned by the children, since they are able to provide a model of language on what the learners will use in the real life. Related to that statement, Kim (1995:35) presents six advantages of using the language games in the classroom, which are:

  1. games are motivating and challenging.
  2. games are as a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.
  3. games help the students to make and sustain the effort of learning.
  4. games provide language practice in the various and integrated language skills.
  5. games encourage students to interact and communicate to each other.
  6. games create a meaningful context for language that is being learned by the students.

In line with Kim, Mei and Yu jing (2000) also believe that through playing

games, students can learn English as the way the children learn and say their mother language without being aware they are studying; thus without stres, the students can learn a lot in learning the target language. While Wright et al.(1984) write that games can help the teacher to create contexts in which the language is useful and meaningful. The learners who want to take part in the activities, must understand what others are saying or or have written, and in order to do so, the students then must speak or write in expressing their own point of views or give information.

In conclusion, games are able to help the students use and practice the target language being learned in a relaxed way. Games are also highly motivating since they are amusing and interesting. Games also can be used in giving practice in all language skills and the use to practice many types of communication which is in line with the objectives of the teaching skill.

2.3 Some Studies Related to The Use of Games in Language Learning

There are some studies conducted on the use of games in language learning.

Mariyana’s research (1999) showed that by using games, the students became more interested, actively involved and motivated in the learning activities. Games also helps the students in building a good relationship with their friends as well as increasing their achievement in learning English.

While Nurisnaini (2000) on her research, found out that games and songs are effective strategies in improving the students’ participation in the classroom activities. Furthermore, Huyen and Nga (2003) in their research, stated that games have been shown to have more advantages and effectiveness in learning vocabulary in various ways. First, games bring relaxation and fun for the students, thus help them to learn and retain new words more easily. Second, games usually involve friendly competition and they keep learners interested in the activities. These create the motivation for learners of English to get involved and participated actively in the learning activities. Third, vocabulary games bring real world context into the classroom and enhance students in using English language in a flexible and communicative way.

2.4 The Techniques of Using Language Games

There are many types of language games that can be used in connection with the

Langua ge teaching, such as pictures games, psychology games, cards, board games, guessing games, and so on (Wright et al., 1984) In this article, the writer only provides 2 (two) suggested activities of using language games in teaching speaking skill, which are guessing games and pictures games.

  1. Twenty Questions (Harmer,2001)

“Twenty questions” is one kind of guessing games. The essential rule of this game is

that someone knows something and others must find out what it is (Wright et al.,1984). This game is a useful teaching technique since it can create a true communicative situation and combine the language practice in fun and excitement ways.

  • Procedures:

Students are divided in two teams. Each team thinks of an object and tell the other

team that the object is either animal, vegetable, or mineral- or a combination of two or three of these. If team A is in charge, so team B has to find out what the object is by asking only “yes/no” questions such as “Can you use it in the kitchen?” , and team A can answer the question in a complete answer like “No,we can’t” or just in short answer like “No” or “Yes”.

If team B can find out what the object is in twenty questions or less, team B will get point. At this phase, the teacher should arrange how many point that the team B will get if they can answer it in just five questions, ten questions, or fifteen questions, e.g. in or less than five questions, the team will get 20 points, in or less than ten questions the team will get 15 points, and so on.

  1. Where are My Glasses? (Wright et al.,1984)

“Where are my glasses?” is one kind of pictures games. Here, the pictures hold the

main role in conducting the games and pictures can cue responses to questions or cue substitution through controlled practice.

  • Procedures:
  1. Teacher copies the set of pictures for each group.
  2. Teacher divides the students into group of three or four.
  3. Teacher gives out the pictures.
  4. Teacher tells the students that they belong to a very untidy family, and are always losing things. The pictures consist of the large and small pictures. The large shows the pictures of their family livingroom and small pictures show things that they have lost.
  5. Teacher then asks each player of the group to find out from other where these things are and draw them in his/her picture. One player should begin by asking “Where is/are my……..?” and naming one of the lost object, then the other player answers and if it is right s/he will get points and gets the next turn.

III. Conclusion

From the discussion and procedures of the language games above, it can be concluded

that language games is a useful technique in learning and developing speaking skill, since it can create positive classroom interaction that can lower the students’ anxiety in learning the foreign language. Games also help the students to develop their speaking skill in interesting activities so that their speaking ability can be developed in natural ways.


Arifin, Azwar. 2003. Some Games Used to Teach Vocabulary to Young

Learners.TEFLIN Journal. Volume XIV, Number 2 August 2003.

Harmer, Jeremy. 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Malaysia:Longman.

Huyen, Nguyen Thi Thanh and Nga, Khuat Thi Thu. 2003. Learning Vocabulary

Through Games. ASIAN EFL Journal. December 2003.

Available on http://itselj.org/lesson/lin-using games.ttml accessed on December 24th 2004.

Kim, Lee Su. 1995. Creative Games for The Language Class. Forum Vol 33 No.1

January-March 1995 pg.35.

Mariyana. 1999/2000. Permainan Dalam Pembelajaran Bahasa Inggris. Jurnal Genteng

Kali Edisi 6 Thn. III. 1993/2000. Proyek Perluasan dan peningkatan Mutu SLTP.

Kanwil Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. Propinsi Jawa Timur.

Mc Cabe, Allyse. 1992. Language Games to Play with Your Child: Enhacing

Communication from Infancy through Late Childhood. New York:Insight Books

Plenum Press.

Mei, Yin Yong and Yu-jing, Jang. 2000. Using Games in An EFL Class for Children.

Daejin University. ELT Research Paper. Fall 2000.

Nurisnaini, Alvi. 2000. Using Games and Songs to Improve Students’ Participation and

Classroom Situation for Fourth Grade Students at SDN Arjosari III Malang.

Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis. Universitas negeri Malang.

Uberman, Agnieszka. 1998. The Use of Games for Vocabulary Presentation and

Revision. Forum Vol 36 No.1 January-March 1998 pg 20.

Ur, Penny. 1996. A Course in Language Learning: Practice and Theory. Cambridge:

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Wright, Andrew et al. 1984. Games for Language Learning. Cambridge University Press.


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  • Nila Adha

    I could not imagine learning without starting it with a game (I share my English mostly with kids so …).
    Games are important to guide students … mind and soul into the topics. When they smile, I feel it is a lot easier to share know with them.

    Good idea!

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  • hanum

    great post
    can u tell me kind of games that i can use for teen or adult?

  • Nasir Khan

    Waaho; Dear you have the supreme skill to develop such type of technical learning so keep your work continue for the more easiest way of learning.
    May Allah almighty blessed you with more light of knowledge and practice.
    your sincerly
    Lovely Khan

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    great… thanks for inspiring me…

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