Innovation: Introducing THE IGBO SCRABBLE (Okwe Mkpụrụokwu Igbo)
The world of today is about innovation and enterprise even in areas where it seems impossible or unnecessary. It is, therefore, unsurprising that this wind of change and ingenuity of the present age reached even the niche of a threatened language, Igbo.
The idea of an Igbo language board game similar to the popular scrabble was birthed in October 2010. The idea of having such a game, developed by a concerned linguist, was inspired by the need to preserve, encourage literacy in, and attract more attention to the Igbo language.
The Igbo Scrabble (okwe mkpụrụokwu Igbo) is a word game ideally for two or three players. The game consists of forming interlocking words in a crossword fashion on the game board using the various letter tiles. Each player competes for the highest score by using his letters in combinations and locations that best takes advantage of the different letter values and premium squares on the board.
The game was adapted to the language by Olisaemeka Gerald Njoku as a sophomore student of linguistics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2010.
A colleague and friend of the creator of the game, Jason Ubah, and a university lecturer, Ms. Benita Uzoigwe, were both very supportive of the idea of having an Igbo language version of the Scrabble game. Subsequently, the board game qualified as one of the entries under the language category, and was duly exhibited to the public from 22nd – 26th November 2010 during the Nigerian Universities Research and Development Fair (NURESDEF), which was hosted by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The board game was part of the success of that educational fair as the host university took the overall first position.
The game is a viable tool for Igbo language teaching and learning. It is brainstorming, tasking and very educative. It has the potential of motivating accuracy, speed in spelling (and writing), speaking and word-building in Igbo and, of course, refreshing the players memory of mathematics since scoring the game involves some mathematical calculations. Therefore, it could well be said that the Igbo Scrabble teaches both Igbo language and mathematics. The Igbo language board game adopts both practice and internalization strategy to ensure that the language is learnt by the learner. In the learning environment, the game could be played by 2 or 3 players, one of whom must be a communicative competent user of the Igbo language and the learner who can be a first (L1) or second (L2) speaker or learner. However, in competitive environment, 2 – 3 L1 or L2 players could play with a communicative competent user as the umpire. The language board game is effectively backed up by two readily available Igbo dictionaries: the Igbo-English Dictionary by Michael Echeruo and the Igbo-English Bilingual (and Bipartite) Dictionary by Dr. E. S. Ikeokwu.
The Igbo Scrabble equipment consists of the game board, which is a 19 squares by 19 squares grid, 134 letter tiles, a cloth bag (for the tiles) and racks on which players keep their tiles. The 361 squares on the board are of two basic types: premium and non-premium. There are 285 non-premium squares and 76 premium squares: 8 quadruple word squares, 12 quadruple letter squares, 4 triple word squares, 12 triple letter squares, 16 double word squares and 24 double letter score squares.
The rules of playing the Igbo Scrabble are much similar to that of the English version, however, players get to pick 8 tiles at the start of the game. There are however some distinctive rules governing playable words in the Igbo Scrabble game.
It is the hope of the inventor and developers of the game that The Igbo Scrabble will resuscitate the ebbing interest of the indigenous speakers of the Igbo language wherever they may be, and also engender studies in the language by non-speakers, with the overall aim of preserving the beautiful language of the Igbo tribe.