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Jeruba's avatar

What are word games like in languages other than English?

Asked by Jeruba (51916points) June 26th, 2017

Is it rare or commonplace for speakers of other languages to invent and play endless written and spoken games with their words?

For instance, are crossword puzzles and acrostics found in other languages? How about games such as Scrabble, hangman, and Perquackey?

I would think it would be hard to make games and puzzles out of languages that have very consistent-appearing morphology, such as nouns that commonly end in vowels or a lot of verbs with the same structure. Maybe there’s a totally different concept behind them?

And if word games exist at all in languages that have syllabaries instead of “spelling” words, I imagine they’d have to take a different form altogether.

Do you know of any languages whose speakers simply don’t play with their words at all?

(I’m not talking about puns, witticisms, double entendres, and other solo displays of verbal acuity. I’m talking about games, with rules, challenges, and goals.)

I would be willing to guess that there are some considered too sacred to be turned into puzzles, toys, and games, but do people do it anyway?

Tags as I wrote them: language, words, word games, games, puzzles, spelling, crosswords, English.

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3 Answers

flutherother's avatar

I have seen travellers on Chinese trains doing word puzzles to pass the time. It seems crossword puzzles are possible in Chinese. The grid looks the same but the clues are in Chinese and the answers are Chinese phrases rather than words. The grid contains Chinese characters instead of letters.

CWOTUS's avatar

Ah, this takes me back…

Apparently in Europe (my experience is limited, so some of this is hearsay), in most of the larger countries: Spain, France, Italy and Germany, for example, they have their own native language television programming as well as some English-language imports. But a lot of the smaller countries buy what they can from wherever they can get it – assuming there’s a local market for it. And some countries on the bubble just come up with whatever works, down to copying programming developed elsewhere for their own limited market.

So when I spent several months in the Netherlands in the late 90s I learned to expect… just about anything on television when I got to the hotel in the evening.

One night, while getting ready to go out with friends, I happened to see a Dutch version of Wheel of Fortune. It’s the exact same game that you’ve seen on American television: same set; same lighted puzzle board; same rules. Only the words, the clues and the language of the entire program was Dutch. I watched it anyway, though I could barely say Good morning in Dutch. (Anyone who wasn’t born and brought up there can barely say “good morning” in Dutch.)

I knew that I had arrived, and that I knew more than I thought I did, when the lighted and blank squares on the board were:
_ _ R D V _ R K _ N

The contestant was informed (don’t ask me how I know this now) that there were only vowels left, and did he want to buy a vowel?

I started yelling at him (yes, I am that guy who yells at the television sometimes, but only in Dutch hotel rooms, as a rule), “Solve the puzzle, you moron! The word is AARDVARKEN!”

And I was right. (By the way, an aardvarken is just what you think it ought to be.)

zenvelo's avatar

Scrabble is made in a bunch of different language versions. It is essentially the same game but with much different letter distributions and different values for letters.

In 2015, the French Scrabble Champion was a New Zealander who doesn’t speak French.

And there are crosswords in other languages too.

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