Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bilingual Spelling Bee?

I was recently surprised to read this article about a bilingual spelling bee that has taken place for the last 15 years in Houston, Texas. Apparently, more than 100,000 students from all over Texas and Mexico compete at the school and regional levels for a chance to become one of the 30 finalists. The third- through sixth-graders are competing for a $2,000 prize and the title.

Isn’t this such a neat program? The contestants have to correctly spell first the Spanish word, then its English translation. This year’s winning word was “traumatologo” and “traumatologist.”

But sabes qué the funniest part of this is? The kid who won, 10-year-old Jacob Roffwarg, isn’t even a native Spanish speaker. Neither one of his parents speak a lick of Spanish. But Jacob learned the language in the last five years in his school's immersion program. (He’s a fifth-grader at Houston ISD's Mark Twain Elementary.) In fact, for the past three years, none of the winners have been of Latino heritage.

Now THAT is inspirational. And gives me tremendous hope for my own children, whose Spanish is poor. This helps to dispel much of my fear that I have waited too late to really teach them.

Last Friday, the Scripps National Spelling Bee took place in Washington, D.C. The winner was Indian-American, Anamika Veeramani. (Congratulations, Anamika!) But as I was looking through the list of children that made it to this year’s Speller Roster, I was excited to see several Latino children listed including, Mark Brioso de los Santos from Texas, Juan Miguel Jandusay Malana from California, Fernanda Arnay from Florida (pero originally from Chile!), and Julianna M. Canabal-Rodríguez from Puerto Rico – just to name a few. Un aplauso, por favor, for these and all the amazing kids who competed!

That said, I immediately went on-line looking for resources on how to prepare your child at home for a spelling bee. It is disappointing that I could find none in Spanish, but there were several in English, which I am listing here, in case any of you are intersted.

• The Scripps National Spelling Bee official web site.

• Thinkmap’s The Visual Thesaurus® - seems to be a comprehensive site for serious spelling bee contestants.

• You might also check out this article for an easy approach to spelling bee training

• For those of you with younger children, here are some great ideas to teach elementary spelling word lists. I think several of the activities here could be easily applied to Spanish language learning/spelling.

And if you’d like to see more pictures from the Maseca Bilingual Spelling Bee, check out Julio Cortez’s Gallery here.

Con mucho cariño…


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