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Telephone Game (Chinese Whispers): 15+ Fun Facts (Trivia, Teaching Tool,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

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The Telephone game, aka Chinese Whispers, is a game where a message is passed along (as a whisper) from one player to the next, until it reaches the end of the line of players, and the message is repeated. 

While the point is to transmit the message without errors, a lot of the fun of the game lies in the message becoming distorted, often hilariously, by the end. There’s more to the game than this, though. If you want to learn more, keep reading.

It’s great to get to know a little more about your favorite game. If Chinese Whispers was a favorite of yours while growing up, you mind find delving into each of the below-mentioned facts quite interesting. Let’s jump right in. 

16 things you probably didn’t know about the Telephone Game:

1. The game has gone by many names over time.

Most people know the game as “the Telephone game”, but in reality, it goes by different names in different countries. For instance, it is also called Chinese Whispers, Russian Scandal, Gossip, Broken, and Pass the Message. 

2. The first mention of the game as “Chinese Whispers” was in 1964.

While the game certainly existed prior to 1964, it was in that year that there is the first record of the game being called “Chinese Whispers”. It is still called this in the UK and Australia by many players. Of course, worries that it could be considered racist have led to more people calling the name by its alternatives. 

3. There are several reasons why the game might have been called “Chinese Whispers”.

There is no officially documented reason why the game was called “Chinese Whispers”. Some records state that it could have been because the English had a deep fascination for the culture of the Chinese between the 1700s and 1800s. Some English also mistakenly believed that Chinese people spoke in a way that was difficult to understand on purpose. 

4. The underlying message of the game is the unreliability of human gossip spreading.

For older players, the game is a great tool for teaching just how spreading information by word of mouth can turn into gossip or purely incorrect information. This is often used in schools to teach teenagers this very lesson. 

5. For young children, the game can help develop a more extensive vocabulary. 

Many English and language teachers have used the Telephone game as a way to teach students a new word. By doing this on a regular basis, children learn to memorize the word in a fun way and can add new words to their vocabulary. 

6. Some reasons the message is distorted include impatience, anxiety, difficulty hearing.

While simply mishearing the message is probably the number one reason why the whispered message is often misconstrued, it is not the only reason. Some attribute the message errors to players feeling anxious or becoming impatient. 

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7. Players are known to commonly alter the message on purpose. 

While the entire point of the game is for each player to listen carefully and then clearly pass on the message so that it comes out at the end of the line perfectly, many players intentionally send the incorrect message on. This is usually just for the fun of it and results in much hilarity. 

8. Telephone is sometimes used as a tool to help children moderate the level of their voice.

When trying to teach children to use softer and louder tones when it is appropriate, the Telephone game is often used. Children will need to lower their voice to a whisper but still maintain a tone that is loud enough to be clearly audible to the next player. This can take a bit of time and practice, especially for very young children. 

9. There is no limit to the number of players in the game. 

Unlike most other games, there is really no limit to the number of players who can participate in a game of Telephone. Whether you have 4 or 100 players, it’s all the same. Of course, the more players involved, the more fun the outcome can be. 

10. The game is commonly played by school children but can be a good adult team-building exercise too. 

Many people hear of the Telephone game or Chinese Whispers and immediately think that it is a game that is suited only to young children. The reality is that the game can be used to effectively teach lessons to all age groups. It is even used quite effectively as a team-building effort for adults or in a work environment. 

11. The game can be used to help students to listen carefully and practice clear pronunciation. 

For children learning to say words correctly, the game of Telephone can be used quite effectively. They learn to listen carefully and then put the right amount of effort into pronouncing the word clearly for the next player. 

12. There are several variations of the game. 

The game of Telephone that most people learned to play is not necessarily the only version of the game. Other versions include a translation variant where players must translate a word back and forth between languages. 

“Rumours” is another variant of the game and involves players purposefully changing one or two words to alter the meaning of the message. Of course, there are many other variants of the game too. 

13. The Telephone game can teach preschoolers patience and how to take turns.

Teaching very young children the art of being patient can be difficult. Using a game such as the Telephone game can assist as each child must patiently wait for their turn and remain relatively quiet and calm while doing so. Preschool teachers can and do make use of this as a teaching strategy. 

14. Chinese Whispers makes for the perfect game for any party.

Whether it’s a kid’s birthday party, play date, or school function, Chinese Whispers or the Telephone game is the go-to for many parents and teachers. It’s a fail-proof game as every kid simply loves it. 

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15. USA Today featured the Telephone game as one of the top games to play during Covid-19 lockdowns. 

In an article posted by USA Today, a variant of the game called Telestrations (which is a mix of the Telephone game and Pictionary) was featured as one of the board games beyond Monopoly that’s great for playing during Covid-19 lockdowns at home. This is a testament to the fact that the game is still highly popular, even in modern times. 

16. The game is sometimes used to help teach adults a foreign language. 

In foreign language schools, a fun and highly effective way to teach the basics of a foreign language is to use the Telephone game. It can help students remember a word because fun learning is learning that sticks. If you’re learning a foreign language with some friends or colleagues, you may want to give this a try. 

Last Word

Who knew there were so many hidden facts behind the game of Telephone?! Did you know any of these facts before? Now you can consider yourself informed! The next time it comes up in conversation, you can consider yourself well educated on the game! Enjoy!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.