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NZ Girl Prepares to Tackle US Spelling Bee Final

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 24 May 2005

New Zealand School Girl Prepares to Tackle US Spelling Bee Final

New Zealand Champion Speller Charlotte Roose, a 12 year-old from Hillcrest High School in Hamilton, is deep in preparation for the 78th Scripps Howard Spelling Bee contest in Washington DC from May 31 – June 2.

Charlotte is the country’s first ever representative at the US Spelling Bee which is the world’s longest run academic competition and has been held more times than the Academy Awards. She leaves for Washington DC on Saturday, 28 March.

Charlotte won the New Zealand Spelling Bee final with a strategy that involved listening carefully to work out how the word was pronounced and using care and precision to sound out each word before she spelt it out.

This is a strategy she hopes will serve her well at the US Final where she must face the differences between New Zealand English and American English.

“It will be difficult as even everyday words are spelt differently. Neighbours is spelt neighbors and doughnut is spelt donut. They also use z instead of s in a lot of words such as, recognize,” says Charlotte.

“The different pronunciation and strong American accent will also make spelling there harder,” she says.

Charlotte is being helped with her study by Tom Cavanagh who is on a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Waikato’s School of Education.

He says that Charlotte is very ready for the competition and has worked hard to prepare for it.

“Charlotte is a great representative for New Zealand and this is an amazing opportunity for her. The Spelling Bee is highly respected in teh US and Americans follow it very closely. Now it is televised live I watch it nearly every year,” he says.

Tom has also told her to be very careful with her pronunciation of the letter Z.

“She must say “zee”. If she says it the New Zealand way Americans will not know what she means,” he says.

Charlotte’s reference is the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a 12 pound monster with over 4,500,000 words which she won at the New Zealand Final along with return airfares to Washington for herself and a companion.

Whilst she says she is nervous about the competition she is looking forward to the trip, her first ever overseas. She has been in communication with fellow New Zealander, Sam Lawson, who lives in Florida and has also qualified for the US Final.

The pair will attend a dinner held in their honour with the New Zealand ambassador to the United States, Tom Wood, while they are in Washington DC.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee attracts around ten million competitors hopeful of winning a place in the championship final.

This year’s competition 78th Annual National Spelling Bee will have more participants than ever with 271 children from all 50 states and several other countries including New Zealand.

New Zealand Spelling Bee event Manager, Janet Lucas, says the national spelling bee in New Zealand, the first of its type, generated enormous interest indicating the current popularity of bees, which has spawned two Hollywood movies which will be released this summer.

“At the New Zealand Final the atmosphere was tense as all it takes is one letter wrong and the speller is eliminated. The audience erupted with applause when Charlotte correctly spelt her winning word, contiguous. I think people were pleased they could start to breathe again,” she says.

The winner of the US Final will walk away with a prize package of US $12,000 and an engraved cup from the bee, plus an additional US$5,000, encyclopedias, a US$1,000 savings bond and a reference library from other sponsors – as well as instant celebrity status.

Weekly business paper, The Independent, was the principal sponsor of the 2005 New Zealand Spelling Bee. Radius Pharmacies and eye-Q memory and concentration supplements also supported the event financially.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee is administered by a charitable trust. Its purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage.

ENDS

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