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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snigdha Nandipati - another Indian wins Spell Bee 2012

Last June, I had posted about this stating “It is a contest conducted with the purpose of helping the students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives. Interestingly, it is stated that the common interest among spellers is music.” – read :

This year, history has repeated itself and Indian American parents can rest easy for another year as the beloved crown is secure. From Sukhanya Roy to  Snigdha Nandipati, this time as the 14 year old spelled “guetapens” to win the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee crown. She became the fifth desi queen bee in a row.  It was an all Indian final and the runner up is Stuti Mishra, 14, who was felled by “schwarmerei.”

In what turned out to be triumph for her calm and collected approach, the 14-year-old Indian-American  Snigdha Nandipati,  from San Diego spelled “guetapens,” edging out eight other finalists in the nerve-wracking, brain-busting competition. A coin collector and Sherlock Holmes fan, Nandipati aspires to become a physician or neurosurgeon. She also plays violin and is fluent in Telugu.  She was a  semifinalist last year,  and has now become  the fifth consecutive Indian-American winner and 10th in the last 14 years, a run that began in 1999 when Nupur Lala won and was later featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”

Stuti Mishra of Florida finished second after misspelling “schwarmerei” — which means excessive, unbridled enthusiasm. While many spellers pretend to write words with their fingers, the 14-year-old Mishra had an unusual routine — she mimed typing them on a keyboard.  Coming in third for the second consecutive year was Arvind Mahankali of New York. At 12, the seventh-grader was the youngest of the nine finalists, and he has one more year of eligibility remaining.

Nandipati’s prize haul includes $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, $2,600 in reference works from the Encyclopedia Britannica and an online language course.

Quizzing right from the radio quiz of Bournvita to the one conducted by Sidhartha Basu has attracted Indians, but this has fascinated them more reaching levels of ethnic obsession with some Centres already conducting specialized training for the Indian community.    In the US Spellbee, Indians have been outrightly dominant -  they have been winners eight times in the last 10 years; Indians took the first spot in each of the last five years and all three top places in this year’s contest.  Apart from all the limelight, the success of these children sure would make more Indian  parents put more pressure on their wards to memorise sort of everything in their build-up to make future champions. There is so much of parental pressure and this one perhaps is going to add more. 

It is no indicator that Indians speak, write or have mastery of  English better than Europeans or Americans.  There reportedly is - North South Foundation, a body of expatriate Indians which has been conducting local spelling and other contests that made Indian children better. Memorising tracts is and has always been the Indian way of acquiring knowledge. It is also the way in which learning is examined in Indian schools. Answers to questions about history, geography and even science that aligned word for word with what the textbook said got you full marks in the school curriculum. Snigdha’s father is reported to have  trained her since she was four, and used 30,000 flash cards to help her memorise tough words.

A spelling bee is a competition where contestants, usually children, are asked to spell English words.   The competition in US is now sponsored and fun by E.W. Scripps Company.  They claim that their purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives. The competition has three distinct segments: Preliminaries, Semifinals and Championship Finals.  The Preliminaries consist of a test delivered by computer (Round One Test) and two rounds of oral spelling onstage (Rounds Two and Three).  The Semifinals consist of rounds of oral spelling.  The Championship Finals consist of rounds of oral spelling

Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison was the youngest speller on record to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but she’s an old pro at spelling bees, entering her first at the age of three-and-a-half.

And if you ever wondered what ‘Guetapens’ means :   it is – ambush, snare, trap – a trick to lure someone in to guetapens…………………………

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. After watching the semi-finals I asked my daughter in North Carolina about her plans for my seven year old granddaughter. She told me that if coaxed, my granddaughter would work at it for one or two hours a day and more. "Buy why?", she quipped. She will not do so many other interesting things. I was too glad to agree. Too glad.

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