I’ve gotten a little addicted to Scrabble on my iPhone. I also desperately need to practice my Arabic vocabulary. Without any Arabic-language Scrabble/Words With Friends apps (that I could find), I have decided to come up with a real-world solution:
First come the conversion of a plain English Scrabble set to an English/Arabic set. Arabic Scrabble requires 100 tiles, the same number as an English game. This glorious Wikipedia page has the proportions and point-assignments of a well-balanced Arabic Scrabble game:
- 2 blank tiles scoring 0 points
- 1 point: ﺍ×8, ﻝ×4, ﺝ×4, ﺡ×3, ﺥ×3, ﻡ×3, ﻥ×3, ﻩ×3, ﻭ×3, ﻯ×3
- 2 points: ﺏ×4, ﺭ×3, ﺕ×4, ﺩ×3, ﺱ×3, ﺙ×3,
- 3 points: ﻑ×3, ﻕ×3, ﺫ×3, ﺵ×3, ﺯ×3
- 4 points: ﺹ×3, ﺽ×3, ﻉ×3, ﻙ×3, ﻁ×2,
- 5 points: ﻅ×2
- 6 points: ﺉ×2
- 8 points: ﻍ×2, ﺀ×2
- 10 points: ﺃ×2, ﺅ×2,
(This same page has the proportions for Scrabble in Latin, Czech, Hebrew, and Welsh).
Take a standard Scrabble set, and write the Arabic letters in on the blank backs in your best Arabic script write the alphabet, with 8 alephs, 4 jims, etc (see above).
If you stop at this stage, you now have a perfectly playable Arabic Scrabble set. Get a good Arabic dictionary and you’re ready to go.
But I propose going a step further. I want to play Arabic Scrabble with friends who speak Arabic, but also those who don’t. I propose that you can use this modified set, agree on standard letter conversion, and be able to play a truly bilingual game of Scrabble.
Put all of the modified tiles in a bag. Everyone draws. For each tile, players have the option of using the Arabic letters, the English letters, or both. If they choose to use both, each new, non-intersecting word must use only one kind. So no “juraسic.” The only exception is for intersections.
Intersections can be guided by agreed upon translations. For example, if I played شيخ (sheikh), the person to the left could play “F-I-” and have it intersect with the letter ش, because that letter translates to “sh.” The “FISH” player would then receive the points for “F,” “I,” and “ش.”
This version of the game would require good communication across languages, and some haggling. What could be more fun?
If I can find a Scrabble set by tomorrow’s CMU-Qatar students welcome party, I’ll post pictures of the results. I can’t wait to get started!
“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.”–Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977