NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND – Despite a solid performance in the oral competition Wednesday in the U.S. spelling bee, Japan Times Bee winner Hanna Yoshida failed to qualify for Thursday’s finals due to weak written test results.
During Wednesday’s performance at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, Yoshida correctly spelled “titanium,” finishing the second stage of the preliminary round in high spirits.
The 14-year-old correctly spelled “zymoscope” in Tuesday’s round. Though she spelled both words successfully, her score in the written test, administered Tuesday, was not sufficient to push her into the group of 41 finalists.
“I really wanted to go to the finals, so I’m a little disappointed,” said Yoshida, an eighth-grader at K. International School Tokyo in the capital’s Koto Ward. “But I did have fun and I’m glad that I came here.”
Yoshida said she enjoyed being on stage and meeting fellow students — not only from the United States but from eight other countries — and competing in the United States’ top spelling event.
“I made friends and learned a lot of new words,” she said.
Despite tensions and high emotions at the event, the spirit of camaraderie permeates. Spellers offered each other hugs after their rounds and cheered one another’s success.
An American boy wished everyone else the best of luck after he was eliminated, and some contestants were wished a happy birthday by the scorekeeper after they correctly spelled their words.
In a show of the advanced vocabularies students must cultivate for the competition, the U.S. bee included words of Japanese origin such as bugaku, a classical dance, sumi-e, the art of monochromatic ink painting, and mizuna, a type of mustard plant.
Yoshida said she did not know about spelling bees until she was in the sixth grade, when she joined the competition at her school.
“I thought it would be fun to join the school’s contest,” she said. “I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing it for three years in a row.”
By the time she began competing in spelling bees, Yoshida had a sturdy foundation and vocabulary through her love of English-language books, which she started reading when she was in first grade. Among her favorites are the Harry Potter series and the works of author Roald Dahl.
Looking to the future, Yoshida said she wants to study biology at university. “I’m interested in animals,” she added.
Speaking alongside Yoshida, her mother, Kazuyo, said she is proud of Hanna’s performance in the U.S. bee despite the pressures of competing with native English speakers.
“It was Hanna’s first visit to the United States and I’m glad she got to broaden her horizons,” she said. “I know Hanna wished she had advanced, but I’m so happy she came this far.”