Why Are Indian Kids So Good at Spelling?
June 2, 2010 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Because they have their own minor-league spelling bee circuit. Having a qualifying spelling bee league that is, at times, tougher than the actual competition is what results in the extreme over-representation of Indian kids (1% in population, 11% in the spelling bee) at the national-level Scripps spelling bee. Where else have you seen such a phenomenon?
posted by vidur (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Phenomnomnom
posted by tehloki at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Scottish goalkeepers.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:47 PM on June 2, 2010


Alas, there are no national syntax bees.
posted by longsleeves at 7:54 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that the Scripps thing was only open to students who live in areas with a sponsoring school board or newspaper, and not to everyone. That's kinda crappy. Hardly a "national" competition, really, if you don't have the whole country covered by regional qualifying rounds so that anyone theoretically has the chance of making it in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:58 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Phenomnomnom

De doo de doo do.
posted by Webbster at 8:17 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because we want to please our parents.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:46 PM on June 2, 2010


Where else have you seen such a phenomenon?

C'mon dude, the parents are harsh, but they're no Nazis.
posted by naju at 8:57 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just listen to the way an East Indian pronounces the word "vegetables" and the way one of us slurry-voiced 'Mericans pronounces the same word and you have (part of) the answer right there.

As mondaygreens insinuates, there may be some familial reasons coming into play. Not to mention the complicated interplay between caste, language, colonialism and education. And the fact that they have their own minor-league spelling-bee circuit.
posted by kozad at 8:59 PM on June 2, 2010


Just to be clear, I was interested in the thing about qualifying (or lower-level) rounds being tougher than the finals.

With some googling, I can see that there is a controversial parental/familial angle to it. But that's not what I had in mind.
posted by vidur at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2010


Pococurante, guerdon, Laodicean.

Are those words even in use? That's what makes me not so interested in this tournament. The kiddies are so damn good that the organisers have to pick goofy obscure words.

I find it as exciting as listening to a smart kid rattling of pi to 1,000 decimal places.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2010


You know who else asked where else I saw this phenomenon?
posted by DU at 4:56 AM on June 3, 2010


I'm a little skeptical of the article - it sounds like a more formal and more rigorous study group. Bee contestants getting together (online or off) to study isn't new. A minority group finding an opportunity to excel in and working toward it also isn't new.

I'm more bugged by the last paragraph about Vanya Shivashanka - now it's her time to shine? She has wholly upstaged her sister when it comes to the bee. It's horrendously mean, but I hope she goes the way of Samir Patel.

I wish I knew more about the sponsorships as well. While it's usually newspaper sponsorships, there are a lot more kids from other countries (Canada, Jamaica, and apparently Ghana) and military bases. A law firm became a sponsor a few years ago.
posted by zix at 6:31 AM on June 3, 2010


I've always had a problem with the National, since it's not truly representational. However, I don't see much difference between this league/spelling camp and, say, private sports leaguesfor promising young athletes.

Disclaimer: I was my state's spelling champion years ago, but since none of our newspapers were part of the Scripps conglomerate, I won a two-volume dictionary and a lovely photo of me with the state education secretary. I knew we didn't go directly to Nationals, but there were kids who were devastated to learn that it didn't work like a sports bracket.
posted by catlet at 7:30 AM on June 3, 2010


Motherfuckers opened it up to Canadian spellers a few years ago, with champions from each major regional like in the US; Canadians made it to runner-up two years out of six and so the dickheads at Scripps decided to allow only the NATIONAL champion for all of Canada to compete.

This is like what happened after a girl from Jamaica won in 1998: Suddenly Jamaica was disqualified from the next year's competition on a stupid techncality. Actually it's like Taiwan not being allowed in the Little League world series because they won too often- can't have American kids upstaged.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2010


Motherfuckers opened it up to Canadian spellers a few years ago...Actually it's like Taiwan not being allowed in the Little League world series because they won too often- can't have American kids upstaged.

Taiwan still competes in the LLWS (and kicks Canada's ass). At some point the rules were changed as to how wide a player base the all-star teams that compete in the tournament were allowed to be drawn from, so Taiwan's team is now a regional team that defeated other regional teams in Taiwan, rather then the cream of the whole country.

eh?
posted by longsleeves at 10:51 AM on June 3, 2010


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