August 13

A Language Learning Game

Languages are best learned when the learning is seen as games. Games are powerful paradigms for learning.  Here you will find one example of how learning can be made into a game. 

Languages Are Efficient

You probably know this but may not have given it much thought – languages at their heart are expressions of efficiency.  So many of the characteristics of languages express just that. Just look at English, as one example:

  • In English we have 26 letters with which we can write whatever we want.
  • With 44 sounds (give or take 1 or two depending upon which system you are using) we can utter whatever we want in English.
  • With 10 digits we can count to infinity.
  • With less than 20 sounds we can audibly count just as far.
    For those of you who doubt that, just consider how many different sounds we have in a number like 4,987,654,321
  • We use word endings like ly, ness, ive, and ion to give a specific “sense” to the word that came before it
  • We use word beginnings like pre, dis, un and re to do something similar with the word coming after it.
  • We use ed, ing and en endings, amongst other things, to change the time period we are referring to.
  • and so on

Vocabulary is one area where the efficiencies only have limited application, but there too we can see it in examples like:

  • sun, sunrise, sunset, sunny, sun filled, sun drenched
  • point, pointer, pointed, pointless

Using the efficiencies to help us learn languages

It is surprising to me that this understanding does not drive language learning & teaching more than it does.

I want to look at how this understanding can transform so much about how we learn languages. Let us take the area of numeracy and look at how this approach can be applied to learning the numbers in Hungarian. I should hasten that the principles we will work with apply in every language ( that I know of). I have chosen this language as it has relatively few users so most of you can apply yourselves to the task. Even the Hungarian speakers can, however their task will be a lot easier! 🙂

Most times language books teach you 1- 10; then next week 10 – 20 etc and maybe after some weeks or months you can count to a high number. Here I will show you a way to count to as high as you want to, on the same day you start to learn the numbering system in a new language. For real!

Once you do your homework, you can apply this system to learn the numbering system of any language. Every one has its little idiosyncrasies…but once you work them out…you can master it all within a few hours at the most! 🙂

A language learninggameRather than tell you how it works, I encourage you to play the game with me.

I am going to make this exercise as real as I can, so you can get a real feel for learning this way.

To gain maximum benefit from this exercise I encourage you to utter the words as I “teach” them here. You will more readily see the power of learning this way. This way the exercise won’t just stay as an intellectual exercise. Instead, you will take from the learning far more than you would, if you just did all this without learning the numbers for yourself. There are so many things you can learn here, I can assure you, if you are attentive to the process and watch what goes on.

This is meant to be a fun exercise, something to do if you have a spare hour or so.You may take far less depending upon how well developed your language learning skills are.

In fact, why not try this together with a friend or your children?

If you don’t have the time now, I encourage you to STOP and come back to this when you do have the time.


Here we go!

So, take the time to learn the following words:

1     egy

2    kettő

3    három

4    négy

5    öt

6    hat

7    hét

8    nyolc

9    kilenc

10   tíz


This might take you a few minutes. I suggest you use your fingers to count off…then use your fingers to test yourself, eventually throwing up random fingers numbering from 1 – 10. Do it till you have them all!

You have now learned more than half of what you need to! So you are well down the road now. Maybe you find this hard to believe. Persist and you will see what I mean. DON’T rush ahead! 🙂 Following the steps as laid down below will bring you a LOT of reward, you will see.

Next step

Now something “funny” happens with the 11.  Here it is: 11   tizenegy

You will notice that 11 is a bit more than just 10 added to 1. If you don’t, check it out.
Now replicate what happened here to produce 12 – 19.

Huh, you say.

If you are unsure, check again the change that happened. Apply that ….

Now you can work on what you know to count to to 19….And you worked that out by yourself.

If you want to double check ..here is 15 for you: tizenöt This should give you some surety that you are on the right road!

( You are getting no more because YOU can work it out by yourself!! 🙂 )

Take the time it needs to work it all out.

(I should hasten to add here that for this exercise we are not so concerned about the pronunciation…that is a whole different problem of course.)

Once you have done this and can say all the numbers you throw up at yourself, you can go on to the next step:

Now we are going to turn to the 40’s, 50’s, 70’s and 90’s.

You may be wondering why I chose these numbers. Trust me you will soon see the reason! 🙂

Again, I will give you one number from each range and I am confident that you will be able to work out each full range by applying what you have already learned and the additional bits of language I provide.

49   negyvenkilenc

51   ötvenegy

78   hétvennyolc

93   kilencvenhárom

It is one thing to work this out in your head, it is quite another to get your tongue around it. Just do it for the fun of it. You will drive the learning far deeper by doing it this way.

Once you have mastered all that, go to the next stage:

Let us now turn our attention to the 60’s and the 80’s

67   hatvanhét

85   nyolcvanöt

Without too much drama you will now be able to work out 60 – 69 and 80 – 89!

Take your time to say the numbers….

Take a bit of time here to throw up a few of the numbers done before… 🙂

Now we can go to the next step

Here we have now

22   huszonkettő

From this the range 20 to 29 is within your grasp!


Now here is the last range before we hit 3 figures!!!!

34   harmincnegy

Okay, so now you can work out 30 – 39. You can work all this out as you know which part of the word is 4.

The rest of the range is all consistent.

You may not have been counting how many unique pieces of Hungarian you have had to learn to count to 99.

In fact there were 15! The rest you did by applying your reasoning powers.

So here you have a practical example of the efficiency of language and how we can use it to to make our learning more efficient AND more fun. Rather than using rote memorization to learn all the numbers (OMG) we have called on the powers we all have and expressed as we were learning our first language.

Learning languages this way is not so demanding on our memory, but a little more demanding on our attention, presence and ability to deduce and put things together.

Lets move on now

A really interesting thing happens now. By adding just one word we can explode what we know, at the same time helping us to “cement” into our brain what we already have mastered. With one additional word we are now able to count all the way to 999. Amazing, is it not!!!

You all know the word you need to get there and that is:

100  But wait!

I could be a little more demanding and give you an actual number, from which you can work out all you need….

So, I will give you another number here – just so you can be sure about how all what you know and need can be put together to create any number in the hundreds.

123   egyszázhuszonhárom

Have fun! Once you work out the word for 100 and that should not be too difficult, you can say any number form 1 – 999. Take some time and say some numbers…!

Try these for size 234, 498, 909, 567, 789, …..

One more step now

I am sure that most of you may have worked out that once I give you one more word you will be able to count to 999,999.

There is now an immense explosion in what you are capable of saying.

That word is, you guessed it:

1000   ezer

Now you will be able to say any number short of 1 million! WOW

We did all that with 17, YES, 17 words!!!!

I trust from this exercise you have seen many things about learning languages. One is just how important it is to work out what is really “foundational” language in any area. Once we discover that, we can do so much for ourselves. Our memory does not have to be used to learn everything. Instead we can apply ourselves making the learning a game, something that calls on who we are, not just how much we can remember! Once we understand the nature of languages, we can understand that it is critically important to always look for these efficiencies. Our mind will then become more active, as it is in any game. The whole learning experience will become more fun, as we are now seeking to find and make sense of the patterns that are embedded in every aspect of language. Mastery of course requires far more than that, but by starting there we have put ourselves on a road that keeps on giving.




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  • Wow! A great practical proof how all language has DIRECTLY DISCERNABLE hidden structure. But we have to believe this or much better directly know this.
    An excellent teacher like Andrew can impart this necessary confidence through direct transmission during interaction.
    That’s why it’s worth investing in a top-class teacher.

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