Scripps National Spelling Bee could go worldwide

Signaling the most-dramatic development in spelling bee competition since the National Spelling Bee became a live, nationally televised celebration in 1994, The E.W. Scripps Company today outlined a vision for a new, international spelling bee that could be staged as soon as December 2013.

The early-stage concept of the international competition features teams of three spellers from the participating countries, including the United States, chosen through national spelling bees around the world.

Scripps, which is synonymous with "spelling bee" in many corners of the globe, has sponsored the Scripps National Spelling Bee for eight decades. It seeks to marry its reputation for inspiring children to improve their spelling and increase their vocabularies with a fast-growing worldwide passion for the English language.

Two television spots airing on ESPN and ESPN2 during this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee express this idea. Both spots portray children from different countries competing in a spelling competition.

In the first spot, titled "Connections," a South African boy hears an English word and thinks through its spelling in his first language, Zulu, and his second language, English.

In the second, titled "Inner Thoughts," a Chinese girl reflects on her word in both Mandarin and English. Both spots conclude with the vision for a new, international spelling competition alongside the US-based Scripps National Spelling Bee. The spots will air during the Bee's Semifinals on ESPN2 and the Championship Finals on ESPN.

International Interest in Spelling

Since 1976, the Bee has included competitors from outside the United States.

Today, spellers from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea compete in the Bee.

"As English has become the global lingua franca, speakers and learners of English in the United States and around the world have found inspiration in the Scripps National Spelling Bee," said Paige Kimble, director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. "Their interest has, in turn, inspired the vision of a spelling bee for the world."

Vision for the International Competition

To turn this concept into a reality, the Bee has begun researching, collaborating and forming essential partnerships.

The Bee has invited its eight current spelling bee organizers in the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea to collaborate on the international program's rules and guidelines. If the necessary program elements are in place on or before January 31, 2013, the Bee will announce the new international program.

Scripps has established some of the initial framework for the international competition. The Bee anticipates countries from around the world, including the United States, hosting their own national spelling bees and naming their own national spelling bee champions.

Each participating country, including the United States, would then select a team of three spellers to compete on an international stage before a worldwide broadcast audience. Each speller would compete individually, but with the opportunity to call on teammates for assistance one time during the competition.

The international spelling bee would be unique in how it rewards its participants. Kimble said awards could be given for the highest achievements by spellers whose first language is not English, the best humanitarian uses of the English language and, of course, the highest overall ranked competitors.

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