To the Italians who are reading this text, perhaps seeing the word “gioca” brought back memories that they had forgotten were deep inside their minds. To those who are not as knowledgeable when it comes to this language, it may simply sound like any other Italian word. For me, the word “gioca”, however, holds a much greater meaning. Even more interestingly, it may represent more than one may think: playing and learning languages are not mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, a fantastic pair.

The Magical Effect of the Word “Gioca”

The word gioca, which means “Play!” in Italian, is what was written on the stripes of the roller skates that I loved so much during my childhood. Gioca, the name of that famous Italian roller skater brand, happened also to be the first Italian word that I had encountered as a child, even though figuring out how it was pronounced would happen later on. If you’re interested, you can have a look at my Youtube video for some pronunciation tips in Italian. Now, looking back, I can see the magical effect words can have on our lives. As a child, I had no idea I would grow up studying Italian to then start teaching it as a foreign language. This word, has held more meaning and has had more impact on my teaching methods than you can imagine.

Learning Can Be Fun!
Apart from the vivid childhood memories regarding the roller skates built around the word “gioca”, this word reminds me of the joy derived from learning languages through word games that I experienced first with English and then with Italian. In fact, when teaching the language, I continued implementing the efficiency of the word games during my lessons with my students. I must tell you that both my grown-up students and my younger students enjoyed playing word games, and that their progress could be witnessed in the aftermath of our grammar, reading, writing or conversation sessions.

Learning As Adults– It’s Not Child’s Play!

When we think about it, it makes quite a bit of sense. As we grow up, we look back on the childhood memories that we have. We do not usually think of going to school and learning. Instead, we think of the good times and the good memories: playing with our friends outside, our favorite games, or the amazing time we may have had growing up living next to our friends which made it that much easier to hang out after school. This is a concept I have implemented in the way I provide classes. We play to learn Italian and to maintain links between words, grammar, and ideas that are easier to remember than when we attempt to do so only by sitting down and learning verbs the ‘conventional’ way. “Gioca”, as such, became symbolic to my eyes. I understand it as a representation of the beginning of my appreciation for the Italian language, and nowadays associate it with the way I help students all over the world learn it as well.

So, based on some of my classroom experiences making use of these word games with students, I put together an e-book consisting of my most favorite word games so that you can also enjoy playing them, whether this is with your family, coworkers, students, or just with a group of friends that share your love for this language (Get your ebook here). Afterall, there is a reason why everyone’s fondest childhood memories focus primarily on play! So, why don’t we leverage this to make learning a new language easier and more enjoyable for all?