The Times Spelling Bee WinnersThe first big spelling contest in the UK has been decided. A talented trio from St Martin’s School in Middlesex beat teams from all over the country to take the title of The Times Spelling Bee Champions 2009 at the Grand Final in London on June 23rd.

So what kind of word challenges did the winners face? Well, in the quick fire round (the team had to spell as many words in 2 minutes as they could), they spelled contemporaneous and rehearsal in seconds, no pause for thought. From the highlights I’ve seen, that’s what made the St Martin’s team winners – not only could they spell the words correctly, they could spell them quickly.

Other competitors were tripped up by words such as troglodyte and pterodactyl.

Compared to the Scripps Spelling Bee (the major American competition) however, it seems the British have a ways to go. Perusing the sample word list for The Times competition, I can’t say there are any words I haven’t seen before, compared with the final of the Scripps, which threw up zingers like schizaffin. Any kid who can spell that, let alone know the definition definitely deserves a prize. Let’s hope The Times Spelling Bee continues on to become as successful (and difficult!) as the Scripps.