30 Seconds: A Circumlocution Speaking Game


The number one reason students choose to take a world language is because they want to SPEAK it. How much of your class time is spent on students speaking in Spanish? How do you keep them accountable for speaking it? There are so many reasons we may not do this as often as we should (large classes, it’s exhausting, they don’t care, takes too much time to prep, etc.). Also circumlocution is an important language survival skill. But how do you teach them to do that? Here is one game that will solve these problems and get them talking!


It is a mixture of Catch Phrase / Taboo / $25,000 Pyramid / Password. I call it “30 segundos.”

CARDS: Sets with familiar vocabulary words. I like to have at least 20. One day I’d like to have this prepared for each unit we do. Then it makes a nice review game too.
TIMERS: I ask students if they have one on their phones or you can get sand timers.
GROUPS: I prefer groups of 6, which makes 2 teams (3 against 3).
BUZZER: From my other games or ask students if they have an app on their phone.


Prepare them with some valuable words like “person / place / thing / action / description / event”.

1. One person will draw a card. They have to describe that word in target language, no English, without saying the word or using hand gestures. Example: If the card says “taco,” they may say “it is a food, it has lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, Mexican restaurants, etc.” For level 1, they usually don’t speak in sentences. I let them use proper nouns. It’s neat to hear an upper level do this because they are so specific. I do not let them use proper nouns.
2. The other team gets to see the word too. If the person describing breaks any rule, they buzz them on it and they get the point.
3. The team of the describer tries to guess the word in the target language in thirty seconds or less. If they get it, they win a point. If not, their turn is over.
4. After their turn, the next team goes.
5. They should rotate who describes each turn.
6. The team who gets the most points wins!

You can do this more like the $25,000 Pyramid which requires less prep, but more work on you during class. Have them sit facing each other where one can see the board and one can’t. You write the word on the board and you watch the timer. The entire class does this at the same time. However… They can hear each other and they don’t have another team “watching” them. This works well for a little class or if you need to fill some extra time and you don’t have anything prepped.

Let me know how this goes for you! Anyone have a better name for it?


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12 thoughts on “30 Seconds: A Circumlocution Speaking Game

  1. It’s a free buzzer app on the Apple app store. It has lots of funky sounds. You don’t have to have a buzzer, but it makes it more fun for the group that “watching” the describer.

    • It is a document I made that I had on the screen while they were playing. They didn’t know those words before playing.

  2. I have to make a vocab game for a “Literacy in the Content Area” course at my University. Having to do lessons revolving around Spanish for my ENGLISH education courses is a challenge,so I have created a version of this game, as well. I agree that circumlocution is a vital tool in language learning, and I can adapt it well for this assignment and actually use it in my future classrooms. I actually made cards out of stock card, with little rats on one side. This is for the saying, ” ?te comieron la lengua los ratones?” and plan to call it Ratones. I thought that would just be a fun fact to enhance the game.

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