Scrabble Sessions in Vietnam

An article by Toh Weibin

I was privileged to be invited to Huế, Vietnam in early June, to run a couple of Scrabble coaching sessions – one for students of Huế College of Foreign Languages and another for the teachers at Pingo English School.

The sessions were each about 3-4 hours long. The participants were either students picking up English or English teachers, wanting to pick up the game as a fun way to learn more about the language (or to pass the passion on to their students!)

Hence, apart from the basics – rules of the competitive game, tips on finding words, making use of hooks and premium squares strategically, I spoke at length about the different types of words in the word list, and explained how words were added to the dictionary and the wordlist.

Scrabble coaching session with the effervescent teachers of Pingo English School. Pingo is an acceptable word which means “a cone-shaped mound”, but I am quite sure it is not the meaning the school had in mind...

Apart from the coaching sessions, I managed to get in a few practice sessions with Dinh Cong Thuong and Tran My Hoa, the two enthusiasts at the forefront of the Scrabble initiative in Vietnam. I first met Thuong and Hoa at the 2016 ASCI competition held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was their first tournament (and what a great competition it was!) and they were just picking up the game then. More than a year later, their zeal had visibly not diminished.

Session with students of Huế College of Foreign Languages. Thuong (left, in light blue shirt) and Hoa (wearing the iconic green t-shirt from ASTAR) played a game. I assisted from time to time.

My focus was to give Thuong and Hoa multiple avenues to learn the game independently, and ensure that they would be able to hold their own as Scrabble players, so that they would be able to impart their knowledge to others. Vietnam is still a budding Scrabble scene and, in my assessment, the success of the game in the country depends very much on the enthusiasm, resourcefulness, and, may I add, “infectiousness” of the first adopters.

A game I had with Thuong at a café (which serve as good practice venues in Vietnam!) The word GARAGIST (proprietor or employee of a commercial garage) was extended with an E hook.

I was also able to sightsee in my spare time and explore the rich history and culture of Huế. The sights included the Imperial Citadel, the Thien Mu Pagoda and a number of tombs of the Emperors of the Nguyễn Dynasty, sprinkled around the beautiful city. Thuong and Hoa were very gracious hosts and brought me around a lot of the time, often to try out the local delights of Huế and Central Vietnam.

All in all, I am excited for the future of Scrabble in Vietnam. The players are passionate about learning the game and bringing it to a wider audience in the country. With their energy, I hope that they will be able to organise tournaments and inspire more to take part in competitions around the region. While it will take some effort to nurture a vibrant competitive scene in the country, I hope we can soon look forward to holding an international tournament in Vietnam (or maybe even an ASEAN Scrabble Championship?) In the meantime, I will continue to support their efforts wholeheartedly.

This sign, inaugurated on September 15, 2016, reads “I love Huế”. For those bemoaning the lack of Scrabble geekiness in this post, I would like to point out that TOI* is not a word, but TOITOI (New Zealand grass, also TOETOE) is. See if you can find the five 7-letter words which TOI + HUE forms with an additional letter.

With thanks to Toh Weibin for the article


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