There was an unusual spelling bee in New York today. None of the participants was a native English speaker. Earlier today, anchor Lisa Mullins spoke with three of the participants in the Global SpellEvent Championship.
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LISA MULLINS: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is The World. The spelling bee that’s taking place in New York today is not your run-of-the-mill spelling bee. Here’s the thing. None of the students are native English speakers. They come from Argentina, China, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey. And they’re competing in the Global SpellEvent Championship. The winner’s going to get a $10,000 scholarship from the event sponsor which is Franklin Electronic Publishers Incorporated. Barry Lipsky is the CEO and President of Franklin. And Barry what was the big idea to bring in non-English speakers, or at least not native English speakers, to the competition?
BARRY LIPSKY: I think it’s an aspiration that the world has in understanding globalization and how important English is as a lingua franca in doing business throughout the world. And we partnered in most of the countries with TSOL which is a global organization, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. And they have affiliates throughout the world who helped us in recruiting different either corporations and school systems in having regional competitions which were thousands of students.
MULLINS: So you have some students who were competing there today who are with you right now. I’m surprised with all the pressure they can even speak. But who can we speak with first?
LIPSKY: Why don’t I have you speak to the young lady from Argentina? Her name is Clara Sofia Burnetto.
MULLINS: Clara Sofia Burnetto. Okay I’d love to talk to her.
CLARA SOFIA BURNETTO: Hello
MULLINS: Hello Clara. How are you?
BURNETTO: I’m fine thank you. How are you?
MULLINS: I’m very well. My name is Lisa and congratulations on making it this far in the spelling bee. Can you tell me how long you’ve been speaking English?
BURNETTO: Well I’ve been speaking English since I was like six years old.
MULLINS: Wow. How come you started learning it them so early?
BURNETTO: Well in my school we have English since we are really young.
MULLINS: Do you have a favorite English word?
BURNETTO: A favorite English word. I like one word in particular – that’s pumpkin.
MULLINS: Yeah why do you like it?
BURNETTO: I don’t know I just like it.
MULLINS: Can you use it in a sentence?
BURNETTO: I don’t know. I like pumpkin.
MULLINS: I like pumpkin. That’s a good one. And why don’t you spell it for us.
BURNETTO: Pumpkin. That’s P-U-M-P-K-I-N. Pumpkin.
MULLINS: Good I’m glad you said it again the second time just to make it all official. Well I’m sure you’ll get much harder words today but we want to wish you the best of luck. Clara how old are you by the way?
BURNETTO: I’m 15.
MULLINS: Excellent so how do you say in Spanish good luck?
BURNETTO: Buena suerte.
MULLINS: Buena suerte to you Clara. Can you put one of your colleagues there on the phone – your fellow competitors?
BURNETTO: Yeah, yeah sure.
MULLINS: Okay thanks.
BURNETTO: Thank you. Bye.
MULLINS: Hi who’s this?
IGNASIA DORGAN: I’m Ignasia Dorgan.
MULLINS: Ignasia Dorgan. And you’re form Argentina too.
MULLINS: How old are you?
DORGAN: I am 15 years old.
MULLINS: When did you start speaking English?
DORGAN: I was five or four years old.
MULLINS: And how often do you study English now? Is it something you do everyday?
DORGAN: Four days a week. It’s like 10 hours a week. But we still have a debating school. I practice there.
MULLINS: Like what kind of debate? You mean you would talk about an issue?
DORGAN: Yeah they give us like a motion and we have to be a proposition or opposition to it.
MULLINS: Oh pro or opposed. And Ignasia do you have a favorite writer who writes in English?
DORGAN: Maybe Conan Doyle.
MULLINS: Oh Arthur Conan Doyle. You like mysteries?
MULLINS: Yeah. So the Sherlock Holmes series and…
DORGAN: Rowling too.
MULLINS: Oh J.K. Rowling. Oh so you read Harry Potter. Excellent. A lot of weird words in that.
MULLINS: Alright well we wish you the best of luck. Buena suerte?
DORGAN: Buena suerte.
MULLINS: Buena suerte Ignasia. Thank you so much and you can you put, let’s see, somebody else on the phone now.
CAROLIN LENZ: Hello.
MULLINS: Hi. Who’s this?
LENZ: It’s Carolin from Germany.
MULLINS: Carolin Lenz. L-E-N-Z?
MULLINS: Yeah this is Lisa. How are you?
LENZ: I’m fine thanks. And you?
MULLINS: Are you nervous?
LENZ: Yes I’m very nervous.
MULLINS: Yeah but how long have you been studying English? My guess is you probably have very little reason to be nervous.
LENZ: Well I’ve learnt English for four years at school now.
MULLINS: Four years. Now I have to say, not to add to your nerves, but that’s a little less time than some of the folks that I’ve just talked to from Argentina have. And how often do you study it now?
LENZ: It’s like four hours a week.
MULLINS: You studied how many words for the competition?
LENZ: Eight hundred words or something like that.
MULLINS: Eight hundred words. And do you have a favorite author that writes in English.
LENZ: Stephenie Meyer. She wrote the Twilight books.
MULLINS: Oh the Twilight books. And did by reading her books did that help you learn more English?
LENZ: Well I didn’t read the books in English because they were translated in German.
MULLINS: Oh I think that’s cheating Carolin. It’s alright. I’m sure you could do very well in English. Look I wish you the best of luck. In German how do you say good luck?
LENZ: Viel gluck.
MULLINS: Viel gluck?
MULLINS: Viel gluck to you Carolin.
LENZ: Thank you.
MULLINS: Anybody else there?
LENZ: Yeah one girl from Italy.
MULLINS: Okay thanks I’ll talk to her now.
CAMILLA ANAMANINO: Camilla from Italy.
MULLINS: Camilla Anamanino?
MULLINS: How old are you?
MULLINS: Fifteen. And where in Italy are you from?
MULLINS: How long have you been studying English?
ANAMANINO: Six years old.
MULLINS: When did you start reading in English?
ANAMANINO: Reading in English I think since eight.
MULLINS: Since eight years old? Do you have a favorite word in English?
ANAMANINO: I think friend.
MULLINS: That’s a very nice word. Can you spell it and then use it in a sentence for us?
ANAMANINO: Yes. Friend. F-R-I-E-N-D.
MULLINS: And in a sentence, in context.
ANAMANINO: My best friend is Terry.
MULLINS: Alright. And remind me how you say good luck in Italian.
ANAMANINO: Buona fortuna.
MULLINS: Buona fortuna to you as well.
MULLINS: Camilla good luck to you and your fellow competitors.
MULLINS: Again is Camilla Anamanino from Italy, one of the teenagers taking part in today’s Global SpellEvent Championship. It happened in New York City. And by the way the winner has now been announced. The winner today was our first interviewee there – Clara Sofia Burnetto from Argentina. She’s the 15 year old who likes the word pumpkin so much. She won by spelling the world bizarre. That’s B-I-Z-A-R-R-E. Bizarre.
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