Americans Bee-ten* by the British

Scripps National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, or ‘The Bee’, as it’s known to many, has long been a tradition in the United States.  Its popularity has grown to such proportions that it is broadcast on national television every year, and has inspired, among other things, an episode of a murder-mystery sitcom, a documentary, and a film starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Basset.

Despite the dedication, and sometimes obsession, of many Americans, a recent study has shown that, overall, Americans fare worse than their British counterparts when it comes to basic spelling tests. This reflects results returned 20 years ago, from a 1989 international spelling bee.

This is not to say that the British people tested performed well.  Both sides gave poor results, with 62% of Americans being unable to spell the word ’embarrassed’, compared to 54% of Britons.

The Times has initiated a national spelling bee in the UK this year, which may help to raise interest in spelling and literacy.  They have some great games which can be used for practice, to test yourself, or just as a break-time distraction.

An excellent quote from James Harding, editor of The Times:

“Spelling is many things, but rarely fun. It can be frustrating, surprising and illogical. It is also important. English is the country’s gift to the world and its home-grown headache. We hope the Spelling Bee will help young people to learn while enjoying a great team-based competition. All the best of luck.”

*My deepest apologies for this pun.