|Two Beijing teens test their vocabulary at US Spelling Bee dominated by South Asian winners
Two youngsters from Beijing are among the 281 contestants from eight countries including China, Jamaica, Ghana and Sri Lanka, testing their vocabulary at the 86th annual National Spelling Bee in Washington in the US tomorrow HK time.
The three-day contest has been won for the past five years by teens from South Asia. Last year's winner, Snigdha Nandipati (pictured with her grandfather) from San Diego, California, clinched top honors – including a US$30,000 cash prize – by correctly spelling guetapens, a French-derived word for ambush, after 13 rounds.
Chinese students Qingyi Wang, an eighth grader, and Katharine Wang, a sixth grader, sponsored by the Community Center Shanghai, are in the fray this year.
Qingyi, who is 14, also goes by the name Simon and lives in Beijing. He loves basketball and golf and counts the late Steve Jobs as a role models. He studies at Beida Resource Middle School in Beijing.
Katherine, 11, a student at Qooco School in Beijing, competed in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee and she is studies not only English, but also German and French. She plays the piano.
Sponsored by the Scripps media group, the three-day competition is held at the Gaylord National Resort outside Washington.
“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is not only a competition but also a cultural celebration of the English language,'' said its executive director Paige Kimble in a statement.
The final on Thursday is telecast live on the ESPN sports cable channel.
Most of the spellers are aged 12 to 14, but the youngest, Tara Singh, is an eight-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky who is learning Latin and Greek at school and Hindi at home.
The daughter of a radiologist and a stay-at-home mom, she was 7 when she clinched the state title in March by correctly spelling laterigrade (moving sideways) and deglaciation (the uncovering of land by a disappearing glacier).
Singh, a third-grade pupil and Harry Potter enthusiast, counts humuhumunukunukuapuaa, tropomyosin and hoomalimali among her favorite words, the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper reported Sunday in a profile.
If you must know, those words describe a small Hawaiian triggerfish, a protein involved in muscle contraction and something designed primarily to attract favorable attention, respectively.
This year, for the first time, contestants – 116 of whom speak more than one language – will be challenged on their ability not only to spell a word, but to know its meaning as well.
Some winning words in National Spelling Bees past have gone on to enter the popular American lexicon, like psychiatry in 1948, condominium in 1956 or croissant in 1970.
This year's contestants hail from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan as well as the United States, its Caribbean and South Pacific territories and US military bases in Europe. AFP/The Standard