Puzzles for Language-learning

Do you like figuring out a language on your own? Students of linguistics routinely solve puzzles where they have to learn to understand and produce some sentences in a foreign language. Usually these puzzles are created in obscure languages. However, I think they can also be a great way to learn a bit of your target language or a language you’re thinking of learning. So here are some puzzles I created for you:

Chinese puzzle
Chinese characters puzzle
Esperanto puzzle
French puzzle
Italian puzzle
Japanese puzzle
Latin puzzle
Malay puzzle
Scottish Gaelic


This riddle will help you to learn a little bit of Chinese while trying to solve it. Note that Chinese is not normally written with the Latin alphabet, what you see is a transliteration. The numbers indicate tone height:
1 = tone stays the same
2 = rising tone, as in a question
3 = falling-rising tone
4 = falling tone, as in an exclamation
If no tone is indicated, the syllable is unstressed.

Ta1 kan4 shu1 = He/she reads a book.
Xue2sheng kan4 shu1 = The student reads a book.
Wo3 mai3 shu1 = I buy a book.
Ni3 shi4 lao3shi1 = You are a teacher.
Lao3shi1 jiao4 ying1wen2 = The teacher teaches English.
Xian1sheng hui4 shuo1 zhong1wen2 = The man can speak Chinese.
Xue2sheng bu4 mai3 bao4 = The student doesn’t buy a newspaper.
Ni3 mai3 shu1 ma? = Do you buy a book?

Translate to English:
1. Ta1 shi4 lao3shi1.
2. Lao3shi1 kan4 shu1.
3. Xue2sheng bu4 mai3 shu1.
4. Ni3 jiao4 zhong1wen2.
5. Ta1 hui4 shuo1 ying1wen2 ma?

Translate to Chinese:
1. I’m a student.
2. The student reads a newspaper.
3. I can’t speak Chinese.
4. Is the man a teacher?
5. Can you speak Chinese?

Chinese Characters

Try to figure out what each character means:
A puzzle for Chinese characters


Mi legas libron. = I read a book.
La studento legas gazeton. = The student reads a newspaper.
Vi achetas hundon. = You buy a dog.
La hundo ne vidas la katon. = The dog doesn’t see the cat.
Chu vi estas instruisto? = Are you a teacher?
Shi lernos Esperanton. = She will learn Esperanto.
Li vidis shin. = He saw her.
La knabo amas la knabino. = The boy loves the girl.

Translate to English:
1. Mi estas studento.
2. La kato ne vidis la hundon.
3. La instruisto legos la libron.
4. Chu la knabo lernos Esperanton?
5. Chu vi amas min?

Translate to Esperanto:
1. I love you.
2. The teacher doesn’t buy the newspaper.
3. She was a student. She learned Esperanto.
4. Did the girl see him?
5. Will you buy a cat?


Le medecin travaille. = The doctor is working.
Je joue = I am playing.
La fille cherche le medecin. = The girl is looking for the doctor.
Est-ce que le garçon étudie le français? = Is the boy learning French?
Tu regardes la télé. = You are watching TV.
La fille aime le garçon. = The girl loves the boy.
Tu appelles le chien. = You are calling the dog.

Translate to English:
1. J’étudie (= Je étudie) le français.
2. Est-ce que le medecin travaille?
3. Le garçon aime la télé.
4. La fille cherche le chien.
5. Est-ce que tu regardes la télé?

Translate to French:
1. I am working.
2. I am looking for the doctor.
3. Are you learning French?
4. The girl loves the dog.
5. The dog is playing.


Il medico lavora. = The doctor is working.
Gioco. = I am playing.
La ragazza cerca il medico. = The girl is looking for the doctor.
Il ragazzo impara l’italiano? = Is the boy learning Italian?
Guardi la televisione. = You are watching TV.
La ragazza ama il ragazzo. = The girl loves the boy.
Chiami il cane. = You are calling the dog.

Translate to English:
1. Imparo l’italiano.
2. Il medico lavora?
3. Il ragazzo ama la televisione.
4. La ragazza cerca il cane.
5. Guardi la televisione?

Translate to Italian:
1. I am working.
2. I am looking for the doctor.
3. Are you learning French?
4. The girl loves the dog.
5. The dog is playing.


Watashi wa nihongo o hanashimasu. = I speak Japanese.
Anata wa nihongo o hanashimasu. = You speak Japanese.
Kare wa eigo o hanashimasu. = He speaks English.
Gakusei wa eigo o hanashimasen. = The student doesn’t speak English.
Onna no hito wa hon o yomimasu. = The woman reads a book.
Otoko no hito wa konpyuta o kaimasen. = The man doesn’t buy a computer.
Inu wa neko o mimasu. = The dog sees the cat.
Anata wa eigo o hanashimasu ka? = Do you speak English?

Translate to English:
1. Onna no hito wa eigo o hanashimasu.
2. Inu wa nihongo o hanashimasen.
3. Anata wa konpyuta o kaimasu ka?
4. Gakusei wa hon o yomimasu.
5. Inu wa otoko no hito o mimasu.

Translate to Japanese:
1. Do you speak Japanese?
2. I don’t speak Japanese.
3. He buys a computer.
4. The cat doesn’t see the dog.
5. Does the woman buy a book?


Marcus amicum visitat. = Marcus visits a friend.
Marcum amicus laudat. = A friend praises Marcus.
Turba ludum spectat. = The crowd watches the game.
Cornelia forum non amat. = Cornelia doesn’t love the forum.
Conviva forum amabit. = The guest will love the forum.
Marcus convivam salutabat. = Marcus greeted the guest.
Visitabatne Cornelia Paulam? = Did Cornela visit Paula?

Translate to English:
1. Amicus Marcum salutat.
2. Cornelia amicum non visitat.
3. Amatne Marcus Corneliam?
4. Turba ludum spectabat.
5. Conviva forum laudabit.

Translate to Latin:
1. Marcus loves Cornelia.
2. Paula doesn’t praise Marcus.
3. Does the friend visit the forum?
4. Cornelia didn’t love the game.
5. Will the guest watch the game?


Nama saya Ahmad. = My name is Ahmad.
Ini isteri saya. = This is my wife.
Namanya Sarah. = Her name is Sarah.
Kawan saya orang Inggeris. = My friend is English.
Isterinya orang Perancis. = His/her wife is French.
Suami anda orang Malaysia. = Your husband is Malaysian.
Saya tidak boleh cakap bahasa Perancis. = I can’t speak French.
Anda boleh cakap bahasa Malaysiakah? = Can you speak Malaysian?

Translate to English:
1. Ini kawan saya.
2. Suaminya orang Perancis.
3. Anda orang Inggeriskah?
4. Isteri saya boleh cakap bahasa Malaysia.
5. Kawan anda boleh cakap bahasa Inggeris.

Translate to Malay:
1. Your name is Ahmad.
2. My wife is English.
3. This is her friend.
4. I can’t speak Malaysian.
5. Can you speak English?

Scottish Gaelic

Tha mi sgith. = I am tired.
Tha thu math. = You are good. (talking to one person)
Tha i toilichte. = She is happy.
Chan eil mi tinn. = I’m not ill.
Chan eil i làidir. = She isn’t strong.
Tha am fear tinn. = The man is ill.
Chan eil an tidsear toilichte. = The teacher isn’t happy.
Am bheil thu làidir? = Are you strong?

Translate to English:
1. Tha i sgith.
2. Chan eil thu tinn.
3. Tha an tidsear math.
4. Am bheil i tinn?
5. Am bheil am fear làidir?

Translate to Gaelic:
1. I am not tired.
2. The teacher is strong.
3. She isn’t ill.
4. Am I good?
5. Are you tired?

For more puzzles, visit this site with mostly puzzles in obscure languages.