A game with a name that combines Low German language and a popular online pastime is putting Manitoba Mennonite culture into the spotlight.
“It was kind of a spur of the moment idea,” said Jared Falk, who combined the popular Wordle game and Low German together.
It’s called Nah Yo-dle. A direct translation of the “Nah Yo” part means “no you”, but it really means something a little different.
Falk said the phrase is used more to end conversations like “OK then” or “well then”.
The idea was spurred by the discovery of some Wordle clones and a bit of open source code game code. Falk said the initial plan was to create the game as a sort of in-joke between friends but soon realized others might actually want to play it.
“It’s more of a happy accident I suppose than anything else,” said Falk.
The game is made to be funny, at least that is what Falk hopes. He said communication through humour and satire is an important part of Mennonite culture and is somewhat built into the language.
The rules of Nah Yo-dle mirror those of the original game. Players get six chances to guess the five letter word of the day. After each guess, players are told whether they have the right letter or right place for that letter in the word.
Puzzle answers are given the following day on social media and include a definition and use for the word in a Mennonite cultural context.
“That’s the part that gets a little bit humourous there, is when you start following on with the definitions.” said Falk.
The game has started with about 100 words and are a mix of commonly spoken Low German combined with a mix of English words Falk describes as adjacent to Mennonite culture like “quilt” or “choir.”
“Just to make it a little more approachable and not just straight, you need to know, hard core German words,” he said.
As proof, Falk said he even has some non-Mennonite friends who are sporting a three for four win record.
Choosing the words has proved challenging as Low German is largely an unwritten language that can have multiple spelling variations between communities and across the country.
To deal with potential spelling disputes, two resources are used: an online Mennonite dictionary and a widely accepted Low German English dictionary.
“We are encouraging people that, should they spell a word differently in their community, by all means let us know and we’ll add it into the library,” Falk said.
Feedback has been positive from both friends and strangers. There has even been conversation on how the game could be used to introduce the language to people who are not familiar with it.
The educational potential is not lost on Falk. He is not fluent in Low German but credits what he knows as a childhood survival technique.
“I grew up learning the language from my parents, but only because I wasn’t supposed to. Because they only spoke in Low German when they didn’t want me to understand what they were talking about.”
You can find the game online.
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