Spanish board game club promotes learning at JMU | Culture

Sitting around the kitchen table on a Saturday night with the screams of family members echoing throughout the house with every throw of the dice or playing at the board is a typical childhood scene. For some reason, board games have disappeared from most people’s lives as they get older.

Jennifer Lang-Rigal, assistant professor of Spanish linguistics, bought a few Spanish board games and was looking for a way to use them. She suggested to her assistant professor Emilee Vander Werff, double major in Spanish junior and communication sciences and disorders, to create a Spanish board game club.

“We just want people to be able to experience Spanish outside of the classroom to have more confidence in it, but at the same time have a good time,” Wyatt Lam, a junior biology student who will be running the club at alongside Vander Werff, mentioned.

The club includes Spanish board games, conversations and snacks from the Spanish countries. It will take place every other Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The remaining dates for this semester are November 16 and 30 with more to come in 2018.

The games, which take place in the Keezell Hall Language Resource Center available to all, include internationally renowned games such as Clue, Monopoly, Scrabble and Chinese Checkers in Spanish as well as other Spanish games such as Turista Mexicano , Flux and Memoria.

Lam acknowledged that while there are many other Spanish clubs on campus, it can sometimes be difficult for students to have the confidence to attend meetings.

“It seems like sometimes it can be intimidating and intimidating for a student to want to get into one of these clubs,” Lam said.

However, board games offer a new approach since students are already familiar with what they are and how to play them from childhood.

According to Vander Werff, since board games are something everyone is familiar with, it can help break down that intimidating barrier for college students. The mental approach would be for them to go to the meeting to play board games instead of just having a conversation in Spanish at a table.

“I think games motivate us to participate and motivate us to win,” Lang-Rigal said. “Of course, you have to get involved. You have to speak up, you have to say something, and you want to stay involved; you stay engaged because there is a result.

Lang-Rigal calls this type of speaking spontaneous speaking, which she says is a skill you can never practice too much.

“The experience would probably be more natural,” Lam said. “[In] a board game where you just use the skills you have in any way you can to communicate what’s going on.

Not only does the club focus on oral communication skills, but it also offers students the opportunity to expand their Spanish vocabulary.

“If people are going to learn new words in this setting, they are learning different words to play the game,” said Vander Werff. “I have a feeling they will remember it because they have something to attribute it to.”

Overall, this is an experience Lang-Rigal sees as a way for students to meet other people with similar interests and it has even benefited him as a teacher.

“It was a really good experience for me to see how to engage students outside of the classroom, what works and what doesn’t,” Lang-Rigal said.

Contact Shanna Kelly at To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture office on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.

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About Evan A. Ellis

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