Youngsters get a buzz from languages

Published: 23 June 2014 at 16:19

Year 7 pupils are heading to national Spelling Bee final at Anglia Ruskin University

Is your French a bit bof (so-so) or actually tres bien (very good)?  Do you know your spitzer (pencil sharpener) from your schildkröte (tortoise) or your perro (dog) from your pluma (fountain pen)?

Well, 108 talented Year 7 pupils from across the country certainly do, and they will be heading to Cambridge on Friday, 4 July as Anglia Ruskin University once again hosts the national final of the Routes into Languages Spelling Bee.

Over 61,000 pupils entered this year’s competition and the finalists – who come from as far afield as Newcastle and Truro – will compete to correctly spell the most number of words in French, Spanish or German in just 60 seconds.

The competition, sponsored by the European Commission and Vocab Express, has seen a total of 61,493 youngsters take part from 496 schools across the country.  Having first won through class, school and regional heats, the finalists have each been given 200 words to memorise in their chosen language.

The competition is the brainchild of Cambridge teacher Jane Driver and has been extended across England, Wales and Scotland by Routes into Languages, a consortium of universities working with schools and colleges to encourage pupils to study languages.

Routes into Languages East, based at Anglia Ruskin University, runs the national competition and organises the final.  Sarah Schechter of Anglia Ruskin, who is the Project Manager, said:

“We’re amazed at how the Spelling Bee continues to grow year on year.
“It gives Year 7 pupils the opportunity to really improve their language skills, while also having a lot of fun in the process.
“Studies have shown that being able to speak a foreign language has many other benefits, including improving memory, multitasking and decision-making.  Therefore the skills these youngsters have shown in reaching the final should prove useful in other subjects as well.”

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Routes into Languages programme, said:

“The Spelling Bee really catches the imagination of young people.  They discover they can work magic with words and get to grips with a foreign language.  We all get a buzz from the competition!”

John Evans, Language Officer at the European Commission, said:

“The enthusiasm generated by the Foreign Language Spelling Bee, combined with the solid foundation in language skills that it provides, will stand the pupils in good stead for taking languages further in the future.”

Prizes will be presented after the final by the Deputy Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Robert Dryden, John Evans and Angeliki Petrits of the European Commission, and Justin Sycamore of Vocab Express.  There will also be a special video message from Spelling Bee Patron Larry Lamb.  For further information about Routes into Languages, visit