What has spelling got to do with improved reading? Lots according to Warren Fernandez, Editor of The Straits Times.

“Mausoleum”, “Ululate”, “Asphalt”, “Cerulean” and “Vicissitudes”…

These were just some of the words that the 29 finalists, aged 10 to 12, had to spell at the inaugural RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship on Saturday (28 April).

It was an exciting battle that “took nerves to stand in front of a critical audience and judges, then articulate a series of often confusing letters in the correct order,” says Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and SportsMadam Halimah Yacob who was present to give out the awards to the top winners.

Singapore RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2012

Students battling it out at the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2012

At the end of round one, only seven competitors were ousted. The next few rounds heated up as students stumbled over difficult to spell words such as gambol, tutelage, hirsute, psychedelic, archetypal, suffrage, aberrant, plethora and brouhaha.

Students were allowed to ask for clues such as the root word, the origin of the word or the meaning of the word to help them decipher the spelling.  Words like ‘Eunuch’ drew laughter from the audience as Nora Samosir, the pronouncer, was asked to explain the meaning of the word.

But by round four, only nine spellers were left!

Yeo Soon Yii from Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School made it to the top five having successfully spelt ‘Liquifiable‘ but became the last girl to be sent off after misspelling ‘mausoleum’.  Tao Nan School student, Joshua Leow Yan Rong, 11, who made it to the top three was finally expelled after he narrowly misspelt the word ‘Patois’ with an “r” instead of “s”.

Fellow Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) school mates, Jordan Foo Bao Luo, 12, and his junior Shaughn Chan Hsu Young, 11, battled for the title of Champion Speller in the eighth round.  

In the end, it was Jordan who triumphed by correctly spelling the word ‘Gesundheit’ and ‘jodhpurs’ after Shaughn stumbled over ‘Espadrille’.

RHB-Straits Times National Spelling Championship Singapore

Three ACS boys took home top awards – the Championship Title (Jordan Foo), Second Place Winner (Shaughn Chan) and the South Zonal Champion (Ashvin Sivakumar) at RHB-Straits Times National Spelling Championship.

You can read more about the competition and their rewards here.

Like Nora, my “heart broke each time a child misspelt a word” and walked off the stage crestfallen. But no one went home empty-handed. All the participants were congratulated and awarded with a medal and certificate for their effort and participation in this competition.

I took down some notes just in case my child decides to take part in the next National Spelling competition. Here are my 5 rules of thumb to prepare yourself to be the next National Spelling Champion:

Singapore RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2012

  1. Read. Read a lot to build up your vocabulary. There were so many words that even I, a lover of words have no clue of – eg. ‘hirsute’ – meaning having a lot of hair, or ‘vitriol’, meaning bitter or severe criticism.
  2. Read the dictionary as understanding the meaning of the words can help you spell the right word. For example, the word ‘gambol’ is pronounced the same way as ‘gamble’ but have a completely different meaning.
  3. Develop a strong phonic diction that will help with words like ‘lugubrious’ or ‘tumultuous’.
  4. Students are also expected to be able to pronounce words correctly as they have to state the word after spelling it out loud.
  5. Finally, beware the trap of similar sounding words. For example, the ‘s’ in monstrosity was misspelt with a ‘c’; the ‘a’ in ‘utilitarian’ misspelt with an ‘e’.

Congratulations once again to all the participants and winners of this year’s National Spelling Championship. I think you are all Honorificabilitudinitatibus, a new word that I learnt from the Chairman of RHB Banking Group Tan Sri Azlan Zainol, meaning that you are all in a state of being able to achieve honour.


The list of finalists who participated in The Big Spell.

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