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KARACHI: Everything seemed fine with 40 seconds on the counter as the pronouncer gives you a word to spell out. Then as the seconds tick by, you realise that you don’t have your computer or phone auto-correct at your disposal here. You only have two teammates on either side whispering suggestions as you try to remain calm. The word given to you is ‘LOLL’. You are allowed to ask the pronouncer to repeat it, provide its meaning or use it in a sentence before actually spelling it out. And you do all that before spelling it as ‘LOL’. “Incorrect!” declares the pronouncer, before giving the correct spelling of the word as you shake your head in disbelief before accepting the decision.

This is just one of the scenarios at the 13th Dawn in Education Spelling Bee regional championship finals held at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Friday. Competition was held in three age group

categories — nine to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 — with pronouncers Steve Crossman, Shirley Valika

and Frederick Nazareth reading out the words for the contestants and Batul Ali and Zubaida Ahmer handling the judging.

The decorum in the auditorium during competition requires the spellers of each three-member team to be seated in the middle though all three team members can ask questions and give suggestions to the spellers. But they are not to interrupt the speller when he or she starts spelling. Prompting him or her in the middle is not allowed. It can lead to your points getting deducted. If the speller on his or her part wants to rephrase or restart spelling a word, permission needs to be sought for it first. They cannot start spelling again on their own.

Shahrukh Khan, a seventh grader from Beacon­house School System contesting in the 12 to 14 category, was glad to find a lady as the pronouncer for their category. “Ladies are more lenient,” he told his mother before heading towards the stage. “Don’t bet on it,” his friend warned.

As one went up in age groups, the words sounded harder and harder. The 12 to 14 age group were given words such as ‘abseil’, ‘milieu’, ‘phyllite’, ‘sashimi’, etc. Some were spelt correctly followed by applause and some weren’t, followed by silence. One word, ‘anorthosite’, wasn’t even attempted so the pronouncer, Shirley Valika in this case, had to spell it our herself. It was at times like these that the teachers and parents sitting in the audience also seemed relieved that they did not have to be on the stage.

Acting British Deputy High Commissioner, Karachi, Steve Crossman, the chief guest on the occasion, later thanked the organisers for letting him be a part of the competition. Congratulating the contestants for doing so well, he said, “I think you are fantastic as you keep your wits about you under bright lights with your parents and teachers watching.

“There have to be winners and losers in every contest so there is no reason to feel bad if you couldn’t win this time as there is always next year to look forward to. The competition is a useful learning experience for me as well as I didn’t know some words either,” he said.

Dawn Media Group’s director of circulation, Niloufer Patel, thanked all their partners and her team for running a smooth show. She also thanked the Oxford Univer­sity Press for sending the judges for the competition.

Results

Nine to 11 category: Regional champion; Mohammad Abbas — Vali Asr Comprehensive School (main branch).

1st runner up: Yesaa Hasan — Bay View High School (junior branch).

2nd runner up: Ali Hyder — Bay View High School (junior branch).

Twelve-14 category: Regional champion;

Zaynah Abbas — Karachi Grammar School (middle section).

1st runner up: Urooj Fatima Muzaffar — Generation’s School (south campus).

2nd runner up: Syed Hamza Qadri — Karachi Grammar School (middle section).

Fifteen-17 category: Regional champion; Rija Masroor — Generation’s School (south campus).

1st runner up: Affan Moiz — Sargodhian Spirit Trust Public School, Hyderabad.

2nd runner up: Ali Azaan — Sargodhian Spirit Trust Public School, Hyderabad.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2017