NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND – Hanna Yoshida, winner of this year’s Japan Times Bee, advanced to the next oral level of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington on Tuesday.
Yoshida correctly spelled “zymoscope,” sending the 14-year-old into the second stage of the preliminary session of the U.S.’s top spelling competition.
After her word was read, the student from K. International School Tokyo in the capital’s Koto Ward asked for the language of origin of the word, which, according to the moderator, descended partially from Greek and moved into Latin.
Yoshida then asked to hear it used in a sentence. The moderator offered: “The brewer used a zymoscope to assess the yeast varieties.” Taking a breath, she proceeded to spell the word correctly to exuberant cheers from the audience.
The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, the final authority of spelling consulted for the bee, defines the word as “an apparatus for determining the fermenting power of yeast by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide evolved from a given quantity of sugar.”
After leaving the stage, Yoshida admitted that the word was only somewhat familiar to her.
“I didn’t know the definition to be honest,” she said.
“I felt really nervous, but really I knew that I can’t go back. So I just had to do the best I can,” she added.
If Yoshida succeeds in the next round on Wednesday and her written exam score is high enough, she will move on to the final round slated for Thursday. From the Asian region, Yoshida and three South Koreans competed in the event, of which she and two of the South Koreans went on to the next round.
The contestants’ passion for the bee shows in the care they each take in identifying their words before beginning to spell them. Most, like Yoshida, asked for word origins, definitions and example sentences, and some can even identify the foreign roots of words, which they are allowed to ask about as a point of clarification.
Asked about her chances ahead of the next round, Yoshida said she would give it her all.
“I feel nervous but excited at the same time,” she said. “I will just do my best.”
This year, the bee drew a record 516 contestants from all 50 U.S. states and eight other countries, including Japan, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica and South Korea. The number is up from 291 last year.