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When even 100,000 English words is simply not enough

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When even 100,000 English words is simply not enough

 

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Nigel Richards and Panupol Sajjayakorn compare notes at last year's final. In background is the late presidents of the Thai Crossword Game Association Amnuay Ploysaenngam.

 

Most native speakers of English are reckoned to know between 25,000 and 35,000 words. Though in speech 5,000 is usually more than enough to get by and in writing 10,000 would see you through in most situations.

 

But there is one field of language endeavor where even a highly educated person’s vocabulary would be nowhere near enough to compete – the world of competitive Scrabble.

 

This weekend Bangkok sees one of the leading events in the world calendar – the Princess Cup that enjoys the patronage of the Thai Royal Family.

 

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Nigel and Panupol square off on the giant board at the shopping center.

 

The event is being held in full public view at the Central Plaza shopping center in Bang Na, south eastern Bangkok starting today, Friday, and continuing until Sunday.

 

The event will attract thousands of school children in student divisions and the cream of the best youth players in the world for the International Youth section. But most eyes will be on the Princess Cup that features some of the best players of the world’s favorite world game to have ever lived.

 

The undisputed King of Scrabble is in town. Nigel Richards from New Zealand who lives in Kuala Lumpur has won this event and the Thai King’s Cup in July multiple times.

 

He would make anyone with a vocabulary of 100,000 look stuck for words. He is reckoned to have virtually instant recall of all the quarter of a million or so words in the Collins dictionary that is used for this event.

 

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Nigel contemplates the letters on his giant rack.

 

Not just that – the famously reclusive Richards is well known as a masterful tactician who would beat the best computer programs virtually any day of the week. Only the luck factor of Scrabble has seen him play second fiddle in the two world championship style events that were held in 2017.

 

Richards narrowly missed out on the playoffs in events held in Nottingham, England in August and Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month.

 

But he invariably thrives in the noise and hubbub of Bangkok where the game is played in shopping centers with music blaring and commentators encouraging the shoppers to take an interest.

 

Indeed, even casual shoppers will be able to get close to the Kiwi master and observe his games as like all competitors he will be in full view in the aisles of the shopping center from 3pm this afternoon.

 

But despite his massive vocabulary and tactical nous he is unlikely to have matters all his own way. Around a dozen of the top twenty Thai players as well as a strong international contingent will be trying to take the $2,000 top prize from his grasp.

 

Leading the way will be last year’s winner and former world champion Panupol Sajjayakorn while compatriot Komol Panyasophonlert, a computer programmer who has played and lost to Richards in the world championship final some years back, will also be in action.

 

The players will compete in a number of qualifying rounds after which the top two will play in a one or two game final on a giant 10 foot high board in the shopping center to afford maximum view-ability.

 

Former champion Gerry Carter, a long term resident of Bangkok who represents Thailand said: “For those people who think Scrabble is something stuffy played at home over frustrating hours with your gran – think again!

 

“A trip down to Bang Na could open a few eyes and especially reveal the potential of the game to encourage youth to show an interest in English, Mathematics and tactical awareness through crossword gaming.

 

“The game in Thailand is played to a very expert level in English and with an exuberance that is the envy of many countries in the world where the game is perhaps more widely known.

 

“Tens of thousands of people in Thailand play Scrabble and it is known to hundreds of thousands as a competitive and enjoyable endeavor. Though they tend to call it Crossword Game here”.

 

The brand owners of the game were long since unable to sell their sets in Thailand as they were undercut by a local company selling the game under the Crossword Game name.

 

Thailand has two former world champions and a tour visits shopping centers throughout Thailand to promote the game and the sale of Crossword Game sets and equipment.

 

“Big business sponsors have shown a great deal of interest in the game,” added Gerry “As have the universities and the education ministries and departments.

 

“All events feature prize money that is taxed by the government at 5%”.

 

Pictures courtesy of Gerry Carter

 
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-- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-11-24

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Richards is undeniably impressive; he became the world champion in French scrabble, without speaking French in the slightest. There isn't much connection between knowing a language and playing top level scrabble, methinks. They know the words but not the meanings.

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46 minutes ago, nausea said:

Richards is undeniably impressive; he became the world champion in French scrabble, without speaking French in the slightest. There isn't much connection between knowing a language and playing top level scrabble, methinks. They know the words but not the meanings.

I don't believe he is champion in French without knowing the French language. Not possible. May be he memorized the French dictionary, even then I still think problems.

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"Most native speakers of English are reckoned to know between 25,000 and 35,000 words."

 

I seriously doubt that statement and would like to see some proof of that

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9 minutes ago, FritsSikkink said:

"Most native speakers of English are reckoned to know between 25,000 and 35,000 words."

 

I seriously doubt that statement and would like to see some proof of that

Then you should read Stockwell & Minkova (2001), English Words: History and Structure. C.U.P., for example, or look at the websites of Paul Nation or Tom Cobb. Dictionaries list base words (use), inflected words (used, using), derived words (user, useful, reuse, misuse, etc.), the inflected forms of derived words (disused) and so forth, separately, so most of us know fifteen or more forms based on 'use,' but when the forms are so transparent, there is no value in claiming to know fifteen different words, though they are all slightly different. Modern studies of vocabulary use word families (inflected and derived forms based on different words) and suggest that someone who has completed secondary education should know about 18,000 word families, while a person who has finished a bachelor's degree ought to know about 25,000 word families. Non-native speakers of English who want to study in an English-medium institution always need to know what the minimum vocabulary requirement is and there are answers available depending on their field of study and the degree of success that they want. Google provides access to the research.

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45 minutes ago, Ombra said:

Then you should read Stockwell & Minkova (2001), English Words: History and Structure. C.U.P., for example, or look at the websites of Paul Nation or Tom Cobb. Dictionaries list base words (use), inflected words (used, using), derived words (user, useful, reuse, misuse, etc.), the inflected forms of derived words (disused) and so forth, separately, so most of us know fifteen or more forms based on 'use,' but when the forms are so transparent, there is no value in claiming to know fifteen different words, though they are all slightly different. Modern studies of vocabulary use word families (inflected and derived forms based on different words) and suggest that someone who has completed secondary education should know about 18,000 word families, while a person who has finished a bachelor's degree ought to know about 25,000 word families. Non-native speakers of English who want to study in an English-medium institution always need to know what the minimum vocabulary requirement is and there are answers available depending on their field of study and the degree of success that they want. Google provides access to the research.

I don't doubt there are many words, I doubt that most speakers know them as a lot of people are too stupid. 

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3 hours ago, madusa said:

I don't believe he is champion in French without knowing the French language. Not possible. May be he memorized the French dictionary, even then I still think problems.

There is a top-ranked Thai player who came in 4th in a world tournament a few years ago. But he speaks essentially no English. A reporter asked him how that was possible.

 

He replied by saying that his lack of English proficiency was actually an advantage in Scrabble. An English speaker looking at a rack of seven letters will naturally become aware of words based on their frequency of usage. A non-speaker, however, will remember them in proportion to their suitability with respect to the openings on the Scrabble board. 

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6 hours ago, madusa said:

I don't believe he is champion in French without knowing the French language. Not possible. May be he memorized the French dictionary, even then I still think problems.

Nigel speaks no French whatsoever, and has won several Francophone championships, to the amazement and delight of the expert French players. In 2017 he came first in duplicate blitz, pairs, and the premier event - Elite duplicate: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigel_Richards

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