If ever there is a company to counter the popular image of British linguistic incompetence then it is J W Spear and Sons. Several years ago Spear, the maker of Scrabble, sought to build on the domestic popularity of its 40-year-old wordgame by devising a series of foreign editions. Today the 300 workers at its Enfield factory are producing sets of the game in 21 languages ranging from Arabic to Icelandic. Under chairman Francis Spear the company has found particular success in the single market, where half of its annual output - some 5.6 million units - are currently sold. In the process it has won plaudits from the DTI's Business in Europe scheme. Spear first established its European links in 1989 when it bought French games distributor Habourdin International. Recently it appointed a brand manager specifically to co-ordinate the work of its 14 other European distributors. Yet lest this appear a blissfully simple tale of jeux sans frontieres there have been a few national peculiarities to accomodate. The Germans, for example, deemed the traditional plastic letters inferior and demanded wooden ones instead, and the French play a "duplicate" version that requires each player to have their own set of 100 letters. Other games in Spear's range include Knitting Nancy, Mousie Mousie and Pom-Pom Pets. Quite how these will translate to a European market remains to be seen.
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