Foreign Language Spelling Bee, Wednesday, 20th March, MMU
Words and photographs by Sophie Bannister
The atrium in MMU’s Geoffrey Manton building seems particularly multi-coloured today as hundreds of Year 7 pupils in their different-coloured uniforms gather here for today’s regional finals of the Foreign Language Spelling Bee competition.
These pupils have already managed to beat off competition from their fellow classmates to be here today. Now, only two rounds stand between them and a place at the finals that are to be held in Cambridge. To progress, the pupils must spell as many words as they can in their chosen language within 60 seconds. A judge tells them the word in English which they must then translate before spelling. Each word must be spelt correctly or it will stand against them, and all spelling is done using the alphabet of that particular language. The winner will be the pupil who can spell the most words correctly and with the best pronunciation in their 60-second window.
First up is round one of Spanish, French and German. The pupils are brilliant; it is obvious that they have been practising intensely for this competition. They can spell unbelievably quickly and without hesitation once they have been given the word in English. For French and Spanish, due to the high amount of pupils competing, there are two parts to round one.
Competition is stiff and many of the pupils are very determined.
Whilst waiting for the others to finish their first round, German pupils are treated to a lesson in origami paper folding and learning everyday expressions such as, ‘hello,’ and ‘thank you,’ in Chinese. Pupils and teachers alike seem to thoroughly enjoy the workshop, which ends by seeing whose paper frog can jump the furthest.
It is soon time to get back to work as the best three spellers from each language are revealed and continue on to round two. To kick off the final round, the Dean of the Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences Faculty Dr Sharon Handley, stands to give a short speech to all of the pupils who have competed. “It is really important to study languages,” she tells them, “These days, the world is global. Everybody interacts with people around the world. For you to have knowledge of another language makes you a better citizen.” Clearly Sharon sees the many advantages of a competition such as this one.
Soon, the competition has been fought out and the winners of the Regional Finals are announced.
Misha Patel wins the French round.
Shriva Pilli wins the Spanish round.
Mithylan Ganeshwaran wins the German round.
All three finalists will go on to compete in Cambridge.
It sounds like an unusual competition to enter, but since 2010 this spelling bee competition has gathered more and more momentum, attracting national attention as well as the attention of some major universities, such as MMU. It provides pupils with the tools they require to continue studying a foreign language into GCSE and beyond – a vital skill in today’s multicultural world. It also injects life into learning a foreign language, whilst also refining skills such as spelling, accent and pronunciation, which are sometimes as important as knowing the word itself.
The pupils here today seem to have thoroughly enjoyed competing and many of them are eager to continue learning languages further into their education. The day has been a success. Now it’s time to start practicing for the final in Cambridge!
Sophie Bannister is Co-chair of Manchester Metropolitan University’s English Society, where she is currently in her second year studying English Literature. She hopes to complete a Master’s degree after her time at MMU. You can view Sophie’s blog here.