Saturday, April 23, 2011

Transformed into walking dictionary

Wong Zhu Shi of SJK (C) Bukit Beruang, Malacca, being congratulated by her parents after emerging as Malacca champion in the RHB-New Straits Times National Spell-It-Right Challenge yesterday.

Ahmad Suhail Ahmad Nizam took top honours at the Pahang competition at Kuantan Parade yesterday.

The determination to memorise all the words in the dictionary, including 228 "difficult" words, paid off handsomely for 11-year-old Wong Zhu Shi.

Wong, a Year Five pupil of SJK (C) Bukit Beruang, emerged the Malacca state champion in the RHB New Straits Times National Spell-It-Right (SIR) Challenge Season Four at Mahkota Parade Shopping Complex yesterday.

The petite straight-A pupil beat 94 other entrants to walk away with the RM2,000 prize, a plaque and the honour of representing the state at the National Challenge in Kuala Lumpur later this year.

"I started preparing for the SIR competition about a week ago. I went through the whole dictionary and identified 228 words which I found difficult.

"I repeatedly wrote down the terms until I was able to remember them," said Wong, who is the eldest among four siblings.

She was happy that her hard work paid off and she was able to spell most of the words given to her in the finals.

Wong, a first time participant in the SIR Challenge, had spelled "factitious" and "polystyrene" correctly in the finals and "augment" in a three-way tiebreaker to win top honours. The only word she missed in the finals was "miscellaneous".

Besides having gone through the whole dictionary, Wong also attributed her win to her parents, teachers, as well as her uncle and aunt for their guidance.

"I just love the smell of food and I want to become a chef. My father is a doctor but I am not interested in medicine, only food. Maybe when I open up my own restaurant, I could teach my patrons how to 'spell it right'."

Muhammad Syakir Aiman Mohd Kahar, 12, of SK Batu Berendam 2, had spelled "ouster" and "apocalypse" to enter the finals and grabbed the second place, winning RM1,500 and a plaque in a two-way tie when he nailed "courgette".

SK St Francis saw four of its pupils in the finals and three in the top five.

Veejay Anbuselvan came in third, winning RM1,000 and a plaque while P. Kuganeswaran and Alden Ronaldo Lopez won the fourth and fifth prizes, and received RM800 and RM500 and a plaque each respectively.

In Kuantan, a year's wait proved to be well worth it when Ahmad Suhail Ahmad Nizam took top honours at the state competition at Kuantan Parade yesterday.

"I didn't take part last season because I just wasn't ready. This year, I felt more prepared and I asked my parents to sign me up," said Ahmad Suhail, who spent many hours over the past few days learning new words from the New Straits Times and the dictionary.

He walked away with RM2,000 and a plaque after spelling two of four words correctly in the finals.

Although he tripped up on words such as "connoisseur" and "phraseology", spelling "verbiage" and "accrue" was a breeze for the only child of lawyers Ahmad Nizam Hamid and Maslina Arshad.

Ahmad Suhail, the sole representative of SK Tanjung Lalang at the challenge, defeated more than 100 contestants to represent the state in the National Challenge later this year.

"It's a dream of mine to go to the national finals. I will read more books and get my mother to coach me," says the aspiring surgeon, who plans to donate part of his prize money to charity.

Last year's first runner-up, Alyssa Dalila Badli Esham of SK Temin, Jerantut, clinched second place again this season.

"I'm happy but not completely satisfied, especially because I misspelt 'orthodontics', and my mother is a dentist. I didn't intend to mess up; I was just careless," said Alyssa Dalila, the elder of two girls.

As a SIR veteran -- she has taken part in the challenge since Season Two in 2009 -- Alyssa Dalila sees positive improvements in the contest.

"It gets more challenging by the year," said the 12-year-old, who walked away with RM1,500 and a plaque.

Aina Basyirah Ahmad Razali from SK Tunku Azizah was satisfied with third placing as her goal was merely to improve on her performance last year.

"This is my second try and I've spent time looking up words on the Internet over the last two weeks," said the Year Six student, who took home RM1,000 and a plaque.

Winning the fourth spot was a bonus for Liyana Maisarah Mazlan, from SK Kampung Belukar, as she had joined the challenge with no expectations.

"I might try my luck again next year and I will encourage my friends to try out, too," said the first-time contender.

Adam Julian Saifuddin, 11, had aimed to win first prize but had to settle for fifth place, winning RM500 and a plaque.

McDonald's Malaysia provided lunch for participants at both venues.

Today, secondary school students will vie to be the best speller in Malacca and Pahang at the same venues from 10am.

Look out for more on the SIR Challenge in today's Learning Curve

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