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How to give your brain a language workout with just a few minutes each day

Find out how to ride the wave of Wordle’s popularity to language victory

Photo by Clarissa Watson on Unsplash

Links to puzzles in most of Unbabel’s languages are provided at the end of the article.

My grandma taught me how to complete (well, contribute to) crosswords so long ago that I can’t remember when I first started. I’ve always loved puzzles, and I love word puzzles most of all. However, until very recently I’ve always stuck with English, as I’m fairly certain that my attempts to complete a crossword written for adults in German or Portuguese would be unsuccessful. However, 2022 has changed all of that, with Wordle making headlines across the world after its meteoric rise, followed by its sale to the New York Times for an undisclosed seven-figure amount. Copycat puzzles have been launched in languages other than English across the world, and I’ve been taking advantage of this to improve my vocabulary in German, French and Portuguese. So, allow me to present my humble suggestions for how to make the most of all the internet has to offer.

So, let me just say that I’m hugely biased here; I can’t understate how amazing I think this game is and how certain I am that I won’t get bored of it. However, I think there are more layers to it than are immediately obvious, and there are probably loads of ways to play it that I haven’t even looked at yet. With only basic vocabulary, you’ll struggle, but for any language that you speak at intermediate level or higher all of these options are open to you.

Option 1: The basic brain-trainer

First of all, the most obvious one. The original version of Wordle only lets you play once a day and everyone across the world gets the same word within a 24-hour period, which some have said is key to its success. Just doing it once a day in all of the languages you speak is fun, helps build your vocabulary, and also helps you think about how language works. You’ll notice that you end up with favourite words to start with in each language: my current favourites are “tears” in English and “azuis” in Portuguese because they instantly knock out a lot of the key letters, but lots of people have different ones and there are huge swathes of the internet dedicated to discussing this.

Most interestingly though is the effect it’s having on my brain. I’ve spoken Portuguese in some form for eight years, but it’s really hard to acquire the basic assumptions about language that I acquired as a child for English, and so are hard-wired into me. Termo, the Portuguese version of Wordle and considered one of the most faithful and well-executed copycats of the original, is changing all of that. When I know that an ‘H’ is in a certain position in English, I’ll immediately be able to think about the most likely combinations of letters that come before or after it (this may also be aided by having watched a lot of Countdown when I lived in the UK). In Portuguese, though, although I know almost all of the words that have come up so far, it’s understanding the combinations of letters that is something I’m just waking up to — and it feels pretty cool.

Option 2: The pen pal

Another failure… but I’m getting better every day

A friend of mine recently left Portugal, and we’ve been using Termo to keep in touch with each other daily: every evening we’ll send each other a screenshot of our guesses for that day. This is great fun because you’re keeping in touch with someone who may be disconnected from the language you’re playing in (and it’s always good fun to speak a foreign language with a friend), but also you double your potential vocabulary because you see their choices as well. Tactically, you’ll discuss the words that you think are the best to start out with (people rarely agree) and try your best to get one up on your friends. And, if you’re a bit competitive, you’re in for quite a ride.

Option 3: Blitz it

This is to be treated with caution if you’re an all-or-nothing person or think there’s a risk of you getting bored very quickly, but on a lot of the copycat versions (like this one) you don’t have to wait until midnight for a new word. This means you can just sit there, for hours on end, trying to perfect it. Now, it’s tough to argue this is going to help you pass an exam, but you’re bound to learn words the more you play, and if you can keep this addiction up your vocabulary will expand in no time at all.

Whether this kind of thing is actually good for your brain has been subject to a lot of studies and it’s difficult to link evidence, but in the words of Penny Paxman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary and author of this excellent article on the science behind puzzles: “Wordle [is] creating an opportunity for shared experience at a time when many people are feeling disconnected from others. A Wordle habit is not likely to make you smarter or ward off brain aging, but it may give you a daily dose of complex cognition combined with social interaction — and that can be a very good thing.” Add this to the already-proven benefits of lifelong language learning, and it seems we’re onto a winner.


So, here are the Wordle variants for some of the languages that Unbabel supports! I’ve ensured the links work at time of publication but can’t guarantee they will stay available — if you find a link to be broken it’s very easy to Google to find the language you’re looking for.

Arabic | Bulgarian | Czech | Danish | Dutch | Finnish | French | German | Greek | Hebrew | Hindi | Hungarian | Italian | Indonesian | Japanese | Norwegian | Polish | Portuguese | Romanian | Russian | Spanish | Swedish | Thai | Turkish | Vietnamese

Can’t see your language? This is a list of all the known Wordles currently out there, with more being developed all the time. Some of the more unusual ones include Old Norse, Frisian and Esperanto!


How do you keep your languages up to date? Let us know in the comments!

How to give your brain a language workout with just a few minutes each day was originally published in Unbabel Community on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.