What is a ‘Spelling Bee’?

There are some who really don’t need a website spell checker. These are the people who make spelling a sport and participate in competitions known as spelling bees. We’ve put together a guide to some of the most popular competitions held around the world.

The spelling bee has been with us since the 19th century. It’s basically a competition which requires contestants to spell a wide range of words of varying degrees of difficulty. It is thought to have originated in the United Kingdom although the first officially recognised spelling bee was first held in the US in 1925.

Based on Noah Webster’s spelling books, which formed a key element in US school curriculums at the time, the competition was sponsored by The Courier Journal, before being taken over by the Scripps Howard News Service. Its popularity increased dramatically during the 1940s – so much so that the competition started to include contestants from all over the US as well as countries like the Bahamas, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.

Africa’s officially recognised spelling bee is aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 14. It started in 2008 and is held in Egypt.

Spelling bees are held at international level and require contestants to learn correct spellings and how words are used in different contexts and sentences. They take place in locations such as India, Bahrain, Dubai, Sharjah and Taiwan.

Australia’s spelling bee is organised by the State Library Foundation of Western Australia and is intended for school-children of 5 to 8 years of age. Early stages take place online with the final, held in front of a live audience.

The Canadian version uses the same rules as its American counterpart and is held nationwide. Spelling bees are held in the 10 Canadian provinces with winners progressing to a national competition.

Begun as an experiment, Kuwait’s spelling bee became an annual event due to its sheer popularity. It now features over 2000 contestants from around 30 schools across the country.

United Arab Emirates
The biggest spelling Bee in the UAE is held at Abu Dhabi University and is open to both private and public institutions. Another competition, sponsored by the Sylva Learning Center, is also rather popular and attracts children from more than 30 schools.

United Kingdom
Although the first reports of spelling bees originate from British Newspapers of the late 19th century, the only competition in existence started in 2009. Organised and run by The Times newspaper, the competition is intended for schools.

United States
In the US, spelling bees are held annually and feature local competitions, whose winners advance to the national level to compete. The National Competition is sponsored by educational foundations and newspapers and is broadcast on ESPN. Its appeal is global and features contestants from far-flung locations such as Guam and American Samoa.