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Under P-r-e-s-s-u-r-e: National Spelling Bee Goes Big Time on TV

Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Barbara Klein. On our show this week…

We answer a question about Hawaii…

Play some music from new bands…

And report about the latest national spelling contest.

National Spelling Bee


Every year, expert young spellers from around the world gather to compete in Washington, D.C. For almost eighty years, the goal has been to help students improve their knowledge of English words and usage. More than two hundred and seventy boys and girls just competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Steve Ember tells us more.


The national spelling bee takes place over two days in a large hotel meeting room. The spellers sit together in front of a group of judges. To be part of this event, spellers must first win local competitions.

The kids each stand when their turn comes to spell a word. Spellers may ask the judges for help once they hear the word they must spell. For example, a speller can ask for the definition of the word or for its language root.

Students who spell the word correctly continue in the competition. If a speller makes a mistake, a bell sounds and the child must leave the group. Friends and family watch the spellers tensely.

Recently there have been movies, a book and a Broadway musical about spelling bees. As part of that popularity, the last hours of this year's competition were shown at night on national television.

Three girls made it to the final moments of the event.

The winner was thirteen-year-old Katharine "Kerry" Close from New Jersey. This was her fifth year in the national spelling bee. She won by spelling ursprache -- U-R-S-P-R-A-C-H-E. This word borrowed from German is defined as: "a parent language, especially one reconstructed from the evidence of later languages."

A reporter later asked a joyous Kerry to give advice to other spellers. She said to study very hard and never give up.

The eighth-grader is the first girl to win the spelling bee since nineteen ninety-nine. She won thirty thousand dollars along with a five thousand dollar college scholarship and other prizes.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Bangladesh. Munna asks if Hawaii is an American state.

Experts believe that Polynesian people first discovered the Hawaiian Islands about two thousand years ago. A king ruled the islands when British sea captain James Cook arrived in seventeen seventy-five.

In eighteen eighteen, the Hawaiian King Kamehameha said the group should be called the “Islands of the Kingdom of Hawaii”. Britain gave the islands their independence in eighteen forty-three. The king was ousted fifty years later by a group of American businessmen. Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the United States in nineteen fifty-nine.

The state of Hawaii includes eight major islands in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. The main islands are Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai and Hawaii, also called the Big Island. The island of Niihau is privately owned. Kahoolawe has no people.

Hawaii is very far from other populated areas. It is more than three thousand kilometers from the state of California. It is more than six thousand kilometers from Japan.

Hot liquid rock called lava formed the Hawaiian Islands millions of years ago. The lava flowed up from the sea through openings in the sea floor. Visitors today can watch this process continue on the Big Island where the world’s most active volcano still produces lava.

Each of the Hawaiian Islands has a wet side and a dry side. It rains much more on the northeast sides of the islands and much more in winter than in summer. This gives each island two separate climate areas. One area is dry and desert-like. The other area has green plants, rivers and waterfalls.

More than six million people visit Hawaii each year. They enjoy the beautiful land and the warm weather. They swim, watch the whales and other marine life and visit beautiful gardens. Hawaii has some of the most beautiful, interesting and unusual places on Earth.

Rolling Stone's Bands to Watch


Every year the editors of the music magazine Rolling Stone create a list of new musicians they think are going to become popular. Mario Ritter tells us about three of the musicians Rolling Stone has chosen as this year’s best.


Usually music listeners know about bands because they are already famous. Here is your chance to discover some new voices before they become popular. Rolling Stone listed ten musicians or groups they think are going to be important. Listen and see if you agree.


That was “Young Liars” by a group called TV on the Radio. The group has been performing for several years. This song is from an album released in two thousand three. The band has a second full album being released this month.

Another new band is called Rock Kills Kid. These five musicians have an energetic rock sound. Some critics say it is a mix between the bands U2 and The Cure. Rock Kills Kid just released a first full album called “Are You Nervous?” Here is the song “Paralyzed.”


Nicole Atkins’ first full-length album has not been released yet. This young musician started singing while in college. Her songs are often sad and poetic. Listen to Atkins’ dreamy and warm voice in this version of her song “Skywriters.”



I'm Barbara Klein. I hope you enjoyed our program today. Our show was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer.

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