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Why Germans Don't Play Scrabble

Hausaufgaben - German for homework
As our image helpfully illustrates, the idea of playing Scrabble in German comes with a few challenges. At first glance, the question might seem absurd: Scrabble is in no way limited to English. It is a truly worldwide game, spanning 29 languages, including several a sight less obscure than the world's 12th most common tongue.

German does raise unique challenges, however. It's a fusional language, taking on aspects of inflected languages, where you can add endings to words to change their meanings. It's also an agglutinative language, where you can build long words out of small, simple morphemes. German does both, slapping on inflected endings and agglutinative morphemes alike to create truly gigantic words. So, to the question: Do German people play Scrabble?

Yes, Germans Play Scrabble

No problem. Scrabble has faced far greater challenges than German and met with triumph. There are Scrabble sets in Japanese hiragana, which isn't even an alphabet (it's a syllabary). There are Scrabble sets in Latin, which is a dead language, and in Klingon, which is the language of a people who don't exist. Scrabble fears no German.

Sturm und Drang

The above is not to suggest that German Scrabble players have it easy. Notably, they struggle compared to English and particularly fully inflected languages like French in creating plurals or new tenses with a single letter. In German, that usually requires two or three.

A major debate among serious Scrabblers in Germany is whether to modify the tile set to 8 per player, rather than 7, to better enable big words. At present, consensus seems to have formed around keeping things to 7.

Around the World in 69 Languages

As noted above, in many ways German isn't even Scrabble's biggest global challenge. It tackles new alphabets, grammar and phrasing issues entirely absent from English. To date, it's succeeded in style, to the point of establishing 69 different Scrabble sets. They follow.

  • English

  • Afrikaans

  • Anglo-Saxon

  • Arabic

  • Armenian

  • Bambara

  • Basque

  • Bicolano

  • Breton

  • Bulgarian

  • Catalan

  • Croatian

  • Czech

  • Dakelh

  • Dakota

  • Danish

  • Dutch

  • Esperanto

  • Estonian

  • Faroese

  • Finnish

  • French

  • Galician

  • German

  • Greek

  • Gwich'in

  • Haitian Creole

  • Hausa

  • Hawaiian

  • Hebrew

  • Hungarian

  • Icelandic

  • Igbo

  • Indonesian

  • IPA English

  • Irish

  • Italian

  • Japanese Hiragana

  • Japanese Romaji

  • Klingon

  • Latin

  • Latvian

  • L33t

  • Lithuanian

  • Lojban

  • Malagasy

  • Malaysian

  • Māori

  • Math

  • Norwegian

  • Nuxalk

  • Persian

  • Pinyin

  • Polish

  • Portuguese

  • Romanian

  • Russian

  • Scottish Gaelic

  • Serbian

  • Slovak

  • Slovenian

  • Spanish

  • Swedish

  • Tswana

  • Turkish

  • Tuvan

  • Ukrainian

  • Welsh

  • Zhuyin

Some of the Scrabble sets above were not officially released, but became popular from fan-made versions. That's how ubiquitous Scrabble is; even if you don't have it, you can darn well make your own.

The Universal Language

The relationship of Scrabble to its component languages is surprisingly nuanced and complex. To make a functioning game, hard decisions have to be made about what's legal, what's competitive and even what is and isn't "real language." That said, including German wasn't a hard call. Yes, it has some unwieldy words, but it's a popular, entirely playable version of the game.

For some words that could come in handy when you're taking on those mammoth German compounds, take a look at our 21 words without vowels.


Matt Salter has been a professional writer for over 10 years. He is a gaming and technology expert, and world-class word nerd.

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