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Board games for learning and teaching English to refugees

A pack of multi-functional board games focussing on learning and teaching survival English, and adaptable to diverse refugee communities

Photo of Rosie Benjamin
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My idea is to design a game pack containing interchangeable boards and accessories to teach English for daily needs like transport, food, shopping, money and accommodation. Research shows that language acquisition effectively occurs through social interaction, mentoring and peer feedback and that learning occurs rapidly when it is fun. These board games can be targeted at diverse refugee communities by changing images and words to make them relevant to different cultures. Where the internet is not readily available, board games can address language learning needs. Correctly designed, board games appeal to many different ages so families and friends can play together. Through game play, adults and children can learn language without realising it and they can help each other. Board games can also involve several children at once which helps teachers in large language classrooms. Additionally, board games can be taken home or into school playgrounds so that language learning can be reinforced outside the classroom and outside of school hours


Refugees and second language learners anywhere, could benefit from enjoyable language learning board games, as well as under-resourced teachers and schools. My idea is to develop games that can be adapted to different refugee or underprivileged communities in South Africa and, hopefully, the Middle East.


I have already designed two games - to learn transport and shopping language for Rwandan refugees living in South Africa. I piloted these on a small community in Johannesburg. I would like, however, to develop this idea and start again ,designing a pack of several games that teach more aspects of language. A single board could be used more than one way. I developed these games for my BA honours research project in 2012 and tested them on my own refugee students. Since partial copyright now rests with the University of the Witwatersrand I would like to start again. I wish to redesign the games and test them on a larger scale in schools or in the wider community of refugees here. I would also like to design language games for Ethiopian refugees in Israel or for Arab communities in Israel.


I received positive feedback but my pilot study was very small . My own view is that I need to refine my games, redevelop the two I've already designed and design probably 3 more to fit into a portable pack. I need to do a much bigger test. Ultimately, the way forward is on smart phones but I would need a lot of help with that.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

I can share my research on some of the benefits of learning English through games specifically targeted at refugees. I need help with funding, digitisation and distribution.


I work as a volunteer in a refugee shelter (NGO) in Johannesburg which mostly houses Rwandans. I also teach English as a second language. My background is : BA hons. (Applied English language studies) . I am a former journalist and have TESOL and CELTA qualifications


  • Yes, and I am looking for a partner working with refugee communities to implement this idea.
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Attachments (5)

Taxi Mania-board.pdf

A game loosely based on Snakes and Ladders and designed to teach transport language to Rwandan refugees living in Johannesburg, South Africa

How to play-Taxi Mania.docx

Instructions on how to play taxi mania attached. The game can be adapted to suit different language competencies. Instructions may need to be simplified and game needs teacher's help to start.

Buy Buy-board.pdf

Game designed for Rwandan refugees in Johannesburg, to help learn shopping language

Buy Buy-cards.pdf

Shopping cards are an accessory of the game- see instructions

How to play-Buy Buy.docx

Instructions on game play are attached. In further development of a shopping game, the instructions will need to be simplified and the game modified.


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Photo of Stella Akiteng

Hello Rosie,
Greetings to you.
My idea didn't make it to refinement phase but i am moving forward with it given inspirational feedback from refugees and public; I wish to have you as part of my network for a collaboration. While I notice that your idea doesn't target Uganda but South Africa and middle east, I find your idea/strategy fitting to my idea strategy. Please kindly let me have your thoughts Hoping to hear from you,

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