Sheffield schoolgirls buzzing with spelling success

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Do you know your spitzer from your schildkrote?

And can you tell your perro from your pluma?

Sheffield schoolgirls Ayanah Ewusie-Nelson and Georgia Sibley

Sheffield schoolgirls Ayanah Ewusie-Nelson and Georgia Sibley

Georgia Sibley and Ayanah Ewusie-Nelson certainly do – their language skills in German and Spanish have seen them through to the finals of a top national competition, taking place tomorrow.

The 11-year-olds from Sheffield High School are leading contenders in the Routes into Languages Foreign Language Spelling Bee competition.

The pupils have been memorising 200 words in their chosen tongues and their task is to translate and then spell as many of the ones selected at random by judges as they can in just 60 seconds.

But these girls are good – they can manage an amazing 23 words in a minute once they really get going.

“We’ve been practising since the start of the year and we managed to qualify by getting through a school event and then the regional final,” Ayanah said.

“We’re feeling good and confident but you do get nervous because they call out the words randomly and you have to spell as quickly as you can.”

More than 61,000 pupils from nearly 500 schools entered but only the very best have made the final, taking place in Cambridge.

Ayanah will be spelling in Spanish while Georgia’s speciality is German.

Language teacher Claire Devaux said: “We know Georgia and Ayanah will do the school proud at the final in Cambridge – they’ve been working hard and the speed of their spelling is really impressive.”

Managing the event is Sarah Schechter from Anglia Ruskin University, who said the event really caught the youngsters’ imaginations.

“It gives Year 7 pupils the opportunity to really improve their language skills, while also having a lot of fun in the process.

“Studies have shown that being able to speak a foreign language has many other benefits, including improving memory, multitasking and decision-making.

“Therefore the skills these youngsters have shown in reaching the final should prove useful in other subjects as well.”

By the way, in care your not quite sure, a spitzer is a pencil sharpener while a schildkröte is a tortoise, while a perro is a dog and a pluma is a fountain pen.