Lingo (Dutch game show)

François Boulangé hosted Lingo in the 1990s
Presented by Lucille Werner
Country of origin The Netherlands
Running time 20 minutes
Original channel Nederland 2
Original airing 5 January 1989–2 October 2014
External links

Lingo is a Dutch television game show based on the North American format of the same name. Each episode involves two teams of two people trying to guess and spell words. The amount of letters to guess varies from 5 to 8 (depending on the round).

On July 30, 2014, it was announced that Lingo would stop producing new episodes in September 2014 due to declining ratings.[1]


The original incarnation of the U.S./Canadian game show Lingo debuted in syndication in 1987 with Michael Reagan as host and Ralph Andrews as executive producer. Though it ran for only one season, international versions subsequently appeared in French-speaking Quebec and several European markets. Among these was the Netherlands where, due to Harry de Winter (who bought the rights), it became a success. He then used his earnings from the series to start his own production company.

François Boulangé was 35 years old when, in 1989, he became end editor of the programme. The reason the show received such a warm reception in the Netherlands, according to François, is that the Netherlands is a country that enjoys puzzles. Also, the American version followed much stricter rules. For example, the candidates weren't allowed to grab the balls. The grabbing is one of the key elements in the version in the Netherlands, and crowds will often cheer for the candidates to grab a green ball.

When the show first aired, because there weren't any computers, the crew went into the country with sheets of paper. Candidates had to write down the words, and from that pool the first candidates were selected.

When Robert ten Brink was selected as the host, he already had presented the youth news show and was an incumbent announcer.

When Robert ten Brink stopped, end editor François Boulangé succeeded him. He did not find the presentation of the programme very important and saw himself more as a judge then as a presenter. He never watched an episode of the show because he knew the programme from its recording and editing.


Guessing words

Short explanation:
1. W has been already given and is correct. R is present in the word but is in the wrong place.
2. D is correctly, and R is again in the wrong place.
3. O is at the correct place.
4. A is not in the first word (this was already shown to be true in the first guess): the rest is correct.
5. At the third word, O is already correct. A second O is therefore is the only one needed.

Originally, each team had to guess 5-letter words. Later, the game was played with 6-letter words and, on Fridays, 7-letter words. Currently, games start out with 5-letter words, then progress to 6 and 7 letter words, and finish with one last word that is 8 letters long.

The starting team is given the first letter of the unknown word. They then have a short amount of time in which to guess what the word is. The guess must be a valid Dutch word, spelled correctly, and of the correct number of letters. The guess must then be spelled out. However, the word spelled does not have to be the same as the word called out as long as the word spelled is valid. The players may not confer with one another until the game nears the end of the round.

If the word is correctly spelled and in time, the computer will then show certain letters from the guessed word. Letters of the guess that are in the same position as that of the unknown word are shown in red. Letters that appear in the unknown word, yet are in the wrong position, are shown in yellow. Any correct letters which are in the correct position are filled in automatically on the next turn.

If a player fails to think of a word within the time limit, or gives an invalid word, the turn switches to the opposing team. That team then gets a bonus letter: the next correct letter in the unknown word.

Equally, if a team fails to guess the correct word within five turns, the opposing team is given a bonus letter and may try to guess the word. In this sixth turn, the opposing team may now confer.

Teams only get a bonus letter if there are at least two blank spaces remaining. It cannot occur, therefore, that the opposing team is given the full word by a bonus letter.

Unusual words such as verb conjugations (e.g. "speaks") are considered valid words for a team to guess for the sake of giving themselves clues as to the real word, but such words will never be the correct answer.

From 1989-2000, correct answers were worth ƒ50 (20.71). Prior to 2013, each word was worth €25. Currently, teams earn €15 for the first three words, €25 for the next three, then €40 for the three after that, followed by a final eight-letter puzzle where the teams take it in turns, beginning at €60 and dropping €10 a guess.

In 2008 a new rule was added: even though it is the turn of one team, the other team can also guess the word. If this other team is certain they know the word, they can press a button and guess the word. If their guess is incorrect, the score is halved. However, if they are correct, it is doubled and a ball can be drawn. The team has only one chance to guess a word out-of-turn.

Drawing balls

Ball Basin if there are no balls taken out: 18 blue balls (among which 1 question mark), 3 red balls and 3 green balls.

If the word is correctly guessed, the team which guessed the word correctly is granted points and, additionally, each of the two members of the team may draw a ball from the ball basin. Each team has a square card with numbers on it (odd numbers for one team, even for the other) with some numbers crossed off before the start of the game. Each team's ultimate goal is to cross off numbers on the Lingo card (by drawing the appropriate numbered ball) in order to obtain a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line of five numbers. In that case, the team is said to have achieved a Lingo.

Each team has a ball basin, each with 17 blue numbered balls, 1 blue ball with a question mark, 3 green balls and 3 red balls. The numbers on the balls correspond to the numbers on the Lingo card and are crossed off the card if that ball is drawn. The question mark acts as a wild card: if this ball is drawn, the team may choose any number from the Lingo card to be crossed off. However, the ball with that number on it remains in the ball basin, and should that ball be subsequently drawn, the team has effectively wasted a turn.

If a green ball is drawn, it is placed above the ball basin and the team may draw another ball. If a team draws all three green balls, it wins a jackpot, which increases with each correctly guessed word and does not add to a team's score. From 1989-2000, the jackpot increased by ƒ50, and carried over from show to show; currently, it starts at €0 and increases by €100 per word, but resets to €0 for each show, as well as when it is won..

If a player draws a red ball, the team's turn is over and play continues with the other team. Red balls are discarded after having been drawn so that they do not return to the ball basin.

If a team obtains Lingo, that team receives a bonus and is provided with a new Lingo card with new balls. Green balls carry over to a new Lingo card, but red balls do not. Thus, at the start of a new Lingo card, there will again be three red balls in the ball basin.

From 1989-2000, a Lingo earned ƒ100 (€41.42), and the first to Lingo won the game. Currently, Lingos are worth €100, and the team gets a new card. Most money wins.

Ten-letter word

Every three turns, the teams must try to guess a ten-letter word from a given anagram. As time goes on, the letters permute so that more letters are in their correct place. If a team instantly guesses the word correctly, it gets €70. As time goes by, the amount of money is reduced by €10 with each new permutation.


In the first episodes of Lingo (before the introduction of the national postcode lottery), it could occur that the two teams were tied at the end of play. In that event a tie-breaker was played. Play continued the same as with a regular word, except that the turn switched between teams after each attempt and conferring was always allowed. Guessing the word correctly produced no points and you were not allowed to draw another ball.

Currently, the tie-breaker has been taken away and instead replaced by the last word (played on the same basis as above). Because this word has more money than a regular word, there are no longer ties.

Final round

First version

See also No Lingo Bonus Round from the 1987-88 North American version.

At the start of the first version of the Finale, there were 35 blue balls and 1 golden ball.

In the original version of Lingo transmitted by VARA, the final round was based on the "No Lingo" round in the original 1987 North American version. The team guesses up to five words in this round and must draw numbers from their hopper for each attempt at solving a word in hopes of not forming a Lingo. This version lasted until 2001.

At the beginning of the finale, the team receives a 25-number Lingo card, and 16 numbers are crossed off. The center space is left uncovered and is the number that the team must avoid because it forms a Lingo when drawn. The hopper is filled with 35 odd- or even-numbered balls and one gold ball.

The finale is divided into five rounds. The team has up to five attempts to solve a 5-letter word in each round. For each attempt, the team must draw one ball from the hopper, so for example if you solve a word in 4 attempts, you must draw 4 balls. If the word was not guessed, the team had to draw 6 balls. If a numbered ball is drawn that is not on the board, it is discarded. If a numbered ball is drawn that is on the board, it is crossed off, and the ball is discarded as well. If the team draws the gold ball, they are allowed to stop drawing, and their money is automatically doubled. If they manage to draw the required number of balls (or draw the gold ball) without completing a Lingo, the team's money doubles. If at any point in the finale a number is drawn that forms a Lingo on the board, the game ends and the team loses all their winnings. If the team passes a round without getting a Lingo they could choose to play another round in hopes of doubling their money with the risk of losing it all, or stop and take home the amount of money won at that point.

This version of the finale gave rise to the famous sentence, "Staat... niet op de kaart!" ([The number] is... not on the board!) which was always called if a numbered ball was drawn which was not present on the Lingo card.

Second version

This version of the final round lasted from 2000 to 2006. An earlier version of this finale was also used before 2000 in Saturday night episodes with 6-lettered words. The team must guess seven words correctly within three minutes. If successful, the team wins €5000.

Third version

The third version of the finale is based on the second United States version's final round called "Bonus Lingo".

The team has 2 and a half minutes to guess as many words as they can, with a five-attempt limit at a word. The contestants must take turns when guessing and cannot confer with each other, unlike in the US version, and if they stall for too long, they get buzzed out and lose an attempt for the word being guessed. For each word guessed correctly within the time limit, they get to draw a numbered ball from the hopper.

The team then receives a 25-number Lingo card, with ten numbers (instead of the twelve in the US version) initially crossed off. One of the unrevealed numbers forms a Lingo when it is drawn (potentially as early as the first pull). The team can then draw the number of balls they won. The hopper starts off with 15 numbered balls. If team successfully makes a Lingo, they win cash. Unlike in the US version, however, there is no bonus for forming a Lingo on the first ball.

In February 2009, a silver ball was added to the hopper in this round. If it is drawn, the team can choose from two options: they can quit drawing at this point and take home half the total prize, or they can decline and continue playing.

Prior to 2013, the top prize was €5000. Currently, each word adds €1000 to the potential prize, plus there's a pink ball that awards a bonus prize. As before, drawing the silver ball gives the option of leaving with half the pot.

For the 5000th show in 2013, each word added €5000 to the pot. This endgame was won, for a grand total of €35,640.

Lingo Bingo Show

A special alternative on Lingo which was transmitted on Netherlands 1 is the Lingo Bingo Show. Here, four teams play against each other, and each team contains a Dutch celebrity.

Similar to ordinary Lingo, these teams words must correctly guess words and then draw balls. The main difference is that the ball barge has five different colours of balls with the characters B, I, N, G, and O written on them in place of numbers. Every team must try to draw one ball of each colour and draw so that the word BINGO is formed.

The final is played between the two best teams. Both teams get 2.5 minutes to correctly guess as many words as possible.

Retransmissions and presentation

The programme was transmitted initially by VARA, presented by Robert de Brink and François Boulangé.

In 2000, Lingo was taken over by TROS and serious changes were carried out. The duration of the programme was shortened and the 'postcode loterij' could publish the Lingo results. By both modifying the play time and significantly reducing the number of words, the points and therefore the prize money that teams can win continues to diminish. The rules of the show have also changed, particularly the final round (as previously discussed). Also, Nance became the new host and Michiel Eijsbouts became the new jury.

With Nance's transition from TROS to SBS in September 2005, a new host took over: Lucille Werner, who has previously hosted Get The Picture and Michiel Eijsbouts (the jury) was replaced by JP (Jan Peter Pellemans). Thus, the hosts of the show from pilot to present include:

Jury and voiceover

At each episode of Lingo there is a jury check to see if each called word exists. Since 2000, the jury also did the announcing for the show. The show's jury includes:

Until 2000, there were announcers for the introduction of each episode. The names of these announcers are unknown.

Possible moves

In October 2006, leaks from the network coordinator Ton F. van Dijk (a telejournalist for Netherlands 1) revealed that Lingo, in 2007, would move to public broadcasting. The programme drew many older viewers, whereas the new classification of the show on public broadcasting would draw a younger public, too. This caused a commotion to where even minister-president Jan Peter Balkenende was tempted to make official statements about the rumor.

Commercial broadcasting RTL 4 has shown interest in obtaining the rights to the show if they were abandoned by public broadcasting. TROS stated on 17 October that they will keep showing the game, but they wanted to examine how they could adapt the game for a broader public.

On the broadcast of 19 October 2006, Lucille indicated simply that Lingo will continue at TROS. Moreover, this broadcast came after a bet between Robert Jensen and Lucille. This bet implied that she would appear on TV with a deep décolletage. In return, Jensen would participate with Jan Paparazzi on an episode of Lingo. They, however, did not make it to the final.


Later on (dates are unclear), up to 2009, the Lingo show was coupled with the 'Sponsor Bingo Lottery' (a.k.a. Nationale Postcode Loterij, a national Dutch lottery). In this show the winning bingo (lottery) numbers were presented by Dutch celebrity Rick Brandsteder. He would also surprise one of the winners with a brand new car. After 2009 the Lingo show was simply called 'Lingo' again, instead of 'Postcode Lingo' referring to the fact that in the 'Nationale Postcode Loterij' people would win large prizes based on their postal/zipcode.


  1. ^ "Spelprogramma Lingo stopt in september 2014". July 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-03. 

External links

  • Official Website
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