The images shown here are intended to engage children in thinking about language, language origins, etc. They are intended as starter activities or end-of-lesson activities, but could also form part of longer activities.

While most images show a word that translates differently into English, some show a word in a different script, which, once spoken, sounds very similar to the English version.

For younger children, it is an early opportunity to think about language creatively. For older children, it allows for exploration of language roots, language families, and even linguistic imperialism.

Ways in which you might talk to children about these images (depending on age):

  • If you only knew the English translation of the word, would you know what a picture might show?
  • Why might some words in some languages sound similar to each other? Do the countries where the languages are spoken lie fairly close together? Or did people bring words with them as they travelled? What about words for creatures that don’t exist in a country?
  • How does the word translate to other languages spoken in the class? Is there a literal English translation? Can you think of other animals or plants that have a different literal meaning in English?
  • Can you think of any words for an animal or plant in English, that might seem unusual to somebody who is only learning the language? (examples might be butter+fly, dragon+fly, lady+bird) If you know what the two parts of the word mean, would you know what it is? If you could think up a new word for [butterfly], made up of two other words, what would it be? (Collect thoughts on word associations, help children combine them: gentle+wing, flutter+by, etc.)

Note: we will add to these images all the time, so please come back to check for updates. If you have used any of our activities and have feedback (or examples/stories of use) for us, please get in touch! We are also always looking for new fun words to use, drawing on as many different languages as possible, so please get in touch if you can help!