Rarely does language carry as much importance as it does in India. There are approximately 122 different languages spoken in the country after all. What tongue you speak not only determines where you are from, but also what social class you belong to. One thing that linguistically unites the country, especially among people with an advanced education, is the most prevalent remainder of British colonial rule – the English language. One of the best ways to learn English vocabulary is to play Scrabble and since most Indians do not speak English as their native language, it makes sense that the game is played on the subcontinent.
Most people start playing the game at an early age, mostly because it is an easy and fun way to teach your child vocabulary. In India this lays the foundation for the child’s success. As mentioned before, language in India is tied to prestige and social status. English, as the language of science and government in India, is one of the most prestigious. It also enables them to go abroad later and study at a university in the USA, Great Britain or a country where English is widespread. While most still play the classic board version of the game, there is a growing number playing the game online and the Facebook version is especially popular among India’s growing middle class.
Indian Scrabble Association
Having over 1 Billion inhabitants, it is always tough to assess the exact number for anything in India and it is the same with Scrabble. What can be said for sure is the number of dedicated players who decided to join a scrabble club. 400 enthusiastic players make up the Indian Scrabble Association, which has been around for more than twelve years. They are concentrated in India’s biggest cities and try to build up membership there.
Their membership includes a wide range of ages, from young children to people in their seventies. Just like with casual players, online Scrabble is becoming more popular among the association members too. But unlike casual players, they prefer the Internet Scrabble Club over Facebook Scrabble. The Indian Scrabble Association follows the Collins Scrabble Words 2012 guidelines, which incorporates words from Indian languages that have been integrated into English such as chutney, curry and chashmere.
There are a number of Scrabble Tournaments held in every major Indian city, along Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and others. But one is among the most prestigious tournaments in the world. The iGate International Scrabble Tournament is held annually every January in Bangalore, Karnataka. It is the fourth largest scrabble tournament in the world and attracts players from around the world, as far as Nigeria and the USA. The current champion is also the world champion, Nigel Richards from New Zealand.
While iGate is increasing India’s international scrabble profile, another upcoming tournament is important for Indian players, because it determines the best player in the country. The Bayer National Scrabble Championship is held in Mumbai and features the best players from around the nation. Aside from getting money and a trophy, the real honor gained from winning the tournament is the right to represent India at the Scrabble World Championship. The competition was held in India once in 2007, where the current reigning champion won his first world championship. All tournaments follow the official rules of the World English Player’s Association.
As the importance of English and the middle class in India continues to grow, so will the game of Scrabble. The Indian Scrabble Association will grow alongside the game and continue to expand throughout the country. With the iGate tournament taking place in India and having hosted the World Championship once, India is already a premier location on the international Scrabble scene.