We really love that the French Scrabble winner does not speak French
Nigel Richards just snagged a huge board game victor, landing the title of newly crowned French-language Scrabble World Champion. Winning a game of Scrabble is impressive enough as it is, for anyone who’s ever been dealt the hand of F J Q W. But Richards’ achievement is even more impressive when you hear this next piece of information about him: he doesn’t speak French. Not even un peu (that’s French for, “a little”).
So how does one win a game of French Scrabble without even speaking the language? Easy. You just memorize the French Scrabble dictionary.
Scrabble expert Stefan Fatsis told NPR that what Richards does like this: “Basically, what he does is, he looks at word lists and looks at dictionary pages… he can conjure up the image of what he has seen…I don’t know if that’s a photographic memory; I just think it’s something that his brain chemistry allows him to do.”
This is not the first time the New Zealand native has won a Scrabble Championship. He’s a three-time World Scrabble Championship winner, five-time USA National Scrabble Championship, and twelve-time Brand’s Crossword Game King’s Cup. Yeah, sure, that’s impressive and all, but those games are all played in English. Now try playing a game in a language you’re not even fluent in, and win by 131 points — the final score in this French World Championship was an astonishing 565-434.
Richards studied the French Scrabble dictionary, all 386,000 words, for almost two months. It paid off. Then when his victory was announced, it was done so in French, of course. But they included a line in English for Richards, too, saying, “Congratulations Nigel, you’re amazing!”
Ridiculously amazing, indeed. And this is coming from someone (me) who took five years of French in school, and on good days I can barely even conjure up enough words to ask in a broken sentence, “where’s the bathroom?” So winning an entire game with French words? And not knowing anything about French, including all the complicated conjugations? That’s très magnifique!
And OK, I totally used Google Translate for that.
(Images via iStock, Youtube)