ESL Games are possibly the best ways to practice the English you’re learning. Because they’re fun, they are a great break from memorizing and drill. They provide the repetition you need to make words and phrases automatic without “boring you to tears.”
Games are even more valuable if you’re embarrassed to use the English you know because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Focusing on the challenges of the game relieves anxiety and self-consciousness. It frees your mind to process English words and structures at a deeper level.
There’s a wonderful variety of games available for English practice. There are group games for classes or parties, or just to play with friends. There are also many games you can play alone.
For both group and individual printable (pdf) games and game ideas for ESL classes, see Printable ESL Classroom Games.
Team Games include Charades, and Taboo, Jeopardy- style games,(which can also be played online, with a friend or alone), and class relays.
You can also play Scrabble and other commercial word games (for advanced students, since they are designed for native English speakers), commercial or teacher-made board games, and 20 Questions: The Question Game and similar Guess-what-I’m thinking -about games.
There are also many excellent games online. English Club has a good list of other websites with helpful ESL games. (See link near the bottom of this page.) The games pages on this site will emphasize practice of the lessons given in other sections of EnglishHints.com. See Vocabulary Games and Activities for matching games, crosswords, fill-ins, and Odd One Out. You can play a couple of Concentration games to practice some phrasal verb idioms below.
My students and I have played various forms of Concentration (also known as Memory, or Pelmanism in England) with hand-made cards, offline. It’s lots of fun, and great practice matching the pasts and presents of irregular verbs, or words and their definitions, or (for Beginners), words with their pictures. Children often play it matching a pair of identical pictures, or playing cards (sorted to ensure there are two of each set used: a two of diamonds and a two of clubs, or two jacks or queens, etc.)
For instructions and links to two idiom concentration games, go to Concentration Games for Idioms.
Each of those game pages has a link to its mobile version, so if you have a small screen and can't turn it to see the regular 4x3 card grid, you can click the mobile link in the first or second paragraph to get a long, narrow (2x6) grid of cards to turn over.