Battle for coveted spot in Big Spell final

From left: Matthew Ng, Eashaa Pillai and Sam Shreyas Joseph emerged third, second and first respectively in Group B.
Lee I Shiang (left), 12, of Rosyth School, beat Clarissa Ella Ng Yen, 11, of Methodist Girls’ School, to third place in Group A. PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Lee I Shiang (left), 12, of Rosyth School, beat Clarissa Ella Ng Yen, 11, of Methodist Girls' School, to third place in Group A.
From left: Matthew Ng, Eashaa Pillai and Sam Shreyas Joseph emerged third, second and first respectively in Group B. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Semi-final winners outdo rivals by nailing 'shogun' and 'moribundity'

With the word "moribundity", Carissa Tan Huixuan left her rivals behind.

The Primary 6 pupil from Nanyang Primary School came in first among 32 in her group during the semi-finals of this year's RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, held yesterday.

For Sam Shreyas Joseph, the winning word is "shogun".

The Primary 6 pupil at St Joseph's Institution Junior managed to spell the word in a round that featured words of foreign origin, while his four opponents tripped up, thus handing him the victory.

He won in his group of 37 contestants.

  • TOP THREE

    The top three winners in each semi-final:

    Group A

    1st: Carissa Tan Huixuan, 11, Primary 6, Nanyang Primary School

    2nd: Chan Jun Kiat Ryan, 11, Primary 6, Catholic High School (Primary)

    3rd: Lee I Shiang, 12, Primary 6, Rosyth School

    Group B

    1st: Sam Shreyas Joseph, 11, Primary 6, St Joseph's Institution Junior

    2nd: Eashaa Pillai, nine, Primary 5, Raffles Girls' Primary School

    3rd: Matthew Ng Eng Kiat, 12, Primary 6, Anglo-Chinese School (Primary)

The two semi-final winners - who emerged from the 69 who took part yesterday - are now guaranteed spots in the final of this sixth RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, which will be held at ITE College Central on April 22.

The champion wins $5,000 and the challenge trophy for his school.

Carissa took part in the competition when she was in Primary 4 and made it to the zonals then, but was unplaced.

This year, while she nailed every word she was given, she said she did not always know them, but figured them out using phonics.

"It's easier to follow the pronunciation than to overthink," she said.

Among words she figured out was "marinara", where she took a cue from the fact that it referred to a sauce and had Italian origins.

In Group B, Sam said he felt more confident compared with last year.

To help him prepare, his mother, Madam Jelitha Mary, 40, a freelance software engineer, wrote a computer program which automatically reads aloud pronunciations pulled from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Sam added: "I hope to win in the finals because my school has never won the The Big Spell finals before."

RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times are co-organisers of the event, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

It is supported by the National Library Board; ITE College Central is the technology partner.

There was a new format this year.

Ms Fiona Chan, managing editor of The Straits Times, who was a judge for Group A, said: "We raised the standards of gameplay this year by reducing the number of semi-finalists, so all the participants should take satisfaction in the fact that they are already the best spellers of their cohort."

On RHB's continuing support for The Big Spell, Mr Mike Chan, the chief executive officer and country head of RHB Bank Singapore, said: "In today's world, with technology, a lot of spelling is spellchecked, using software and smartphones.

"But you still need to know the fundamentals of English, and how to spell properly."

•Additional reporting by Ang Yiying and Metys Ngo

Follow the action at www.straitstimes.com/tags/big-spell-2017

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Battle for coveted spot in Big Spell final'. Print Edition | Subscribe