August 11, 2008

Teoh and Bessima Under Spell of Success

By Suzieana Uda Nagu; Nurjehan Mohamed

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has found its first two national spelling champions after a four-month journey.

Year Five pupil Victor Teoh Yun-Chen of SK Bukit Daman-sara, Kuala Lumpur, and Fifth-former Bessima Jamal of SMK Lok Yuk Likas, Sabah, beat 26 other state champions at the inaugural RHB-New Straits Times Spell-It-Right National Challenge at Muzium Negara here yesterday.

Teoh won RM3,000, an individual trophy and a laptop computer for himself as well as RM3,000, the challenge trophy and an Acer laptop computer for his school.

He beat Year Six pupils Lim Ann Huey of SJK (C) Seng Keow, Penang, and Kashwini Arumugam of SK (P) Metho-dist, Pahang.

Lim won RM2,000 and a laptop computer for herself and the same for her school while Kashwini won RM1,000 and a laptop computer and the same for her school.

The words that earned Teoh the top spot were "capricious", "allegiance", "egalitarian", "acquisitive" and "ingratiate".

Teoh did not show any emotion throughout the competition, having an almost robot-like appearance.

After he won, presenter and NST associate editor Rehman Rashid had to urge him to walk forward and take a bow.

During the prize presentation, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein tried to force a smile on Teoh's face.

His mother, Jeannie Goh Soo Hor, a homemaker, said he was a strong contender from the start and she and her husband, Brian Teoh Boon Seng, an architect, had confidence in him

"We were not worried when he got a word wrong. After that, it was smooth-sailing for him."

The biggest confidence boosting tip she gave him before the competition was "to just ignore the audience".

When asked if he was going to try his hand at the contest again next year, Teoh said: "Can I?"

Bessima won RM6,000, an individual trophy and laptop computer for herself and RM6,000, the challenge trophy and an Acer laptop computer for her school.

The 17-year-old, whose warm smile and gentle manner won the judges' hearts, also missed just one of the 15 words given to her.

Despite misspelling "obstreperous", she had no problem with the other words, to the loud cheers of the audience.

Bessima's English teacher, Roseline David, was confident her student would shine.

"Even with mounting pressure from the other contestants, I strongly believed that she could be the best national speller."

An avid reader who won the National Nilam Award in recognition of champion readers at state level earlier this year, Bessima knew most of the words given to her.

Bessima said: "Reading is the most conventional and effective way of improving your vocabulary."

Second-placed Nurul Nadiah Nordin, the youngest of the secondary school finalists, confidently and clearly spelt the words given to her, even if she was not sure of them.

Words like "abrogation", "antiquarian", "obfuscation" and "phantasmagoria" were not a problem for the Form Two student of SMK Bukit Rangin, Pahang, but she spelt "lugubrious" incorrectly and had to go into a series of tie-breaker rounds with third-placed Vikram Ramachandran.

The Fifth-former of SMK King George V, Seremban, tripped up on "tendentious" in the finals. He lost out to Nurul Nadiah when he misspelt "vertiginous".

The finals were presented by Rehman and NST deputy chief news editor Balan Moses.

The prizes were given out by Hishammuddin, NSTP chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan and RHB Bank chairman Datuk Azlan Zainol.

(c) 2008 New Straits Times. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.