On Feb. 10, Boyle County Middle School hosted the Kentucky Derby Festival Spelling Bee, a division of the Scripps-Howard Spelling Competition. Students from all the elementary and middle schools in the county competed. The representative from Bate Middle School was an English as a Second Language (ESL) student from China.
During the fourth round of competition, he was asked to spell the word "balance." After writing the word on paper, this student proceeded to spell the word correctly. The pronouncer declared he was "incorrect." Several of us in the audience were confused because we heard him spell the word correctly. At the end of the round, the pronouncer stated that he had spelled the word "b-e-o-l-a-n-c-e." The student was baffled and bewildered.
It is my opinion that because this ESL student does not articulate his letters with the Southern accent we are accustomed to in Kentucky, the judges and the pronouncer mistook his enunciation as "incorrect." Of course, I objected to the ruling, but the student was still eliminated from the competition. When I arrived home that evening, I received a phone call. A young lady (also in the competition) sitting right next to this student heard him spell the word correctly. The young lady's grandmother also heard the word spelled correctly, as did several other members of the audience. The young lady felt it wasn't fair that this student was eliminated.