Learning a foreign language has been on our bucket lists for a while now. It can be intimidating as an adult. Though we’ve learned that one easy way to improve new language skills is to play a game. As part of our adulting blog’s second anniversary celebration, we stepped out of our comfort zones and attempted to broaden our foreign language vocabulary through a rock-paper-scissors game (RPS).

RPS is a simple hand game played around the world and transcends cultural barriers. Those familiar with RPS have probably played countless times since childhood to alleviate boredom or make decisions.

An RPS game is usually played between two people. A clenched fist, a flat hand and two extended fingers represent rock, paper and scissors respectively. Rock smashes scissors; paper covers rock; scissors cuts paper. If each player reveals the same hand gesture, the game ends in a draw and must be replayed.

After a several attempts, RPS in French was fairly easy to pick up. RPS in Japanese and Korean was a struggle.

How do you think you will fare at RPS in another language?

Get ready to play!

Honey and Fox epic fist bump before a rock-paper-scissors game
Credit: Honey and Fox/ GIPHY

France – Pierre-papier-ciseaux-puits

Pierre-papier-ciseaux-puits: stone (rock), paper, scissors, well

Roshambo and ro sham beau are other names for rock-paper-scissors, supposedly of French origin, but historical evidence is limited. We’ll stick with pierre-papier-ciseaux-puits to make things simpler.

Man proudly holding France's flag
Credit: GIPHY

The game is similar to the U.S. version of RPS except in one aspect. The French edition includes an additional gesture called the well. Leave it to the French to be extra by adding their own extra move.

The well trumps the rock and scissors, seeing as they fall into the well. Paper, on the other hand, defeats the well by covering it. With paper and the well able to win against two objects, they become more powerful moves, paving the way for interesting combinations and tactical strategy.

French version of rock-paper-scissors game - Rock, paper, scissors... Well? Ohhh France.
Credit: Honey and Fox/ GIPHY

Italy – Morra cinese

Morra cinese (mor-rah chi-neh-zeh) roughly means Chinese finger game.

Carta-forbice-sasso (kahr-tah for-bee-cheh sah-so): paper-scissors-rock.

Morra is a little bit more complicated than RPS. There are multiple styles of gameplay. The game includes some quick arithmetic, a crazy glare and intense trash talk. Sometimes there is also drinking involved. You play morra either sitting or standing.

In the most popular version, each player throws out their hand, showing zero (a fist) to five fingers, and yells out their guess for the sum of all fingers shown. If one player guesses the sum, they earn a point. The first person to earn three points wins the game.

Hand gestures may vary. Morra players seem to throw out their moves depending on how they typically count using their fingers. Credit: Honey and Fox

Knowing how to count in Italian will definitely come in handy.

Italian Numbers 1 – 10:

English Italian Sounds like
Zero Zero dzeh-roh
One Uno oo-no
Two Due doo-eh
Three Tre tr-eh
Four Quattro kwat-tro
Five Cinque cheen-koo-eh
Six Sei say
Seven Sette set-teh
Eight Otto ot-toe
Nine Nove no-veh
Ten Diechi dee-chi

Japan – Janken

じゃんけん (Janken): rock-paper-scissors

最初はぐう (Saisho wa guu): starting with stone

じゃんけんぽん (Jan ken pon): rock-paper-scissors, pop

あいこでしょ (Aiko desho): It seems like a tie.

Japanese Rock-paper-scissors game
Credit: Honey and Fox/ GIPHY

To play Janken, players start by chanting “Saisho wa guu” and holding out a closed fist. This is quickly followed by each player saying “Jan ken pon.” On “pon,” players form their hands into shapes representing a stone, scissors or paper. If there is a tie, both players chant “Aiko desho!” and keep throwing down moves in rapid succession until someone wins.

South Korea – Gawi-Bawi-Bo

가위 바위 보 (Gawi-Bawi-Bo): scissors, stone, cloth

The game begins with players hiding their hands behind their backs, then chanting “Gawi-Bawi-Bo.” On “bo,” players reveal their hand in the form of an object: stone (fist), scissors (two extended fingers) or cloth (flat hand). If players draw the same hand, they continue to say “bo” and change their hand until there is a winner.

This is the simplest version of the game. Other variations up the ante with penalties, such as getting your head flicked or cheek slapped. Omo!

Playing RPS in a different language is a good opportunity to use what you’ve learned in an engaging, meaningful way. Next time you’re at a language exchange meetup, looking to pass the time or just make a decision, try playing a game with someone. Shake things up in French, Italian, Japanese or Korean.

Which country’s version are you interested in playing?