14-year-old Indian-American Snidgha Nandipati won this year's renowned US national spelling bee contest by correctly spelling the French word "Guetapens" which means ambush.
Speaking to NDTV, the charming teenager says she is still recovering from the challenging contest. She says it wasn't always fun but it's totally worth it in the end!
THE ABC OF BEING A CHAMP
NDTV: In the run-up to the competition you spent about 6 hours on weekdays studying and about 10 -12 on weekends, obviously it's totally been worth it now but back then was it easy, did you enjoy it?
Snidgha Nandipati: Not really (laughs).... it was a lot of work. I took some breaks but I kept thinking to myself when I would get to have more fun. My dad kept telling me it would pay off at the end if I kept working.
NDTV: Parents can be right, sometimes (laughter) what did you do when you took breaks? I know you read encyclopaedias for fun, but what do you do when you want to relax?
Snidgha Nandipati: Umm I read encyclopaedia to relax (laughs). I use Wikipedia a lot, so whenever I encounter an interesting word I spend 15 minutes or so looking up its background. It kind of helps me relax. Also it increases your vocabulary by a lot.
NDTV: So you say it increases your vocabulary, but do you actually use these words in everyday life? For example, would you ever say, let's see, little red riding hood was coming home from the woods and she was ""guetapen""ed by the big bad wolf.
Snidgha Nandipati: Not necessarily. Ummm...sometimes I do use these words for fun and to show off (laughs), but ummm...most likely spellers use their root knowledge and some vocabulary words that they have spelled. It is helpful for SAT's and essay writings and helps a lot in school.
NDTV: So did life change for you at school once everybody realized you were going to go to the nationals?
Snidgha Nandipati: Umm.... not really, except that more people realized that I was into spelling. Even my teacher has started using me as a spell check. He asks me whether a word has two Ls or one L. (laughs)
NDTV: You were really composed in the contest. The first runner up misspelled "schwarmerei" which means "unbridled enthusiasm" and you had none of that. You were perfectly composed, icy cool. How do you achieve that?
Snidgha Nandipati:I don't know. I was just thinking of spelling the words one by one. I didn't even think of winning! I was just focused on my words.
NDTV: The last five winners have all been Indian Americans. How do you explain that?
Snidgha Nandipati: Ummm, anybody can be a winner as long as they put some work into it and then if luck favors them it will work out. I think Indians have a very good work ethic and they can stay focused for a long time. Actually, I don't really know (laughs)
NDTV: And speaking of luck do you have any lucky charm?
Snidgha Nandipati: Yes, I do. I have a keychain with a 'Bee" on it. It's a keychain I bought last year at the Spelling bee when I did not make it. I brought it this year and it worked!
NDTV: What do you do when you come across a word that you don't know?
Snidgha Nandipati: Last year I got a word that I didn't recognize immediately, and I immediately panicked and I got out on that word. This year I practiced taking my time a little more, asking about the root and I try to recollect the word.
NDTV: When you get your word you scribbling it on your palm, why is that?
Snidgha Nandipati: When I hear the word I write it on my palm. It helps me visualize what I am about to spell. When I studied I would write down the words I would miss 5 or 10 times the words so writing it on my palm helps me jolt my memory
NDTV: You have admitted that it is a lot of hard work to get where you have. Would you advice others to take the same path? What about your younger brother for example?
Snidgha Nandipati: Yes, I want him to. Simply for the reason then I can go back to the competition and what it live (laughs). Yes, I would encourage other kids because I think it is very useful for your future, it helps you set goals and learn how to achieve them.
NDTV: You are so young. How did you decide this is what you want to spend time on while other girls are spending time on Justin Bieber concerts and other things how did you decide on Spelling?
Snidgha Nandipati: I started working on Spelling Bees in fifth grade but I really started seriously in 7th grade when I won the County Bee and from there I got to go to the Scripps nationals and then I was hooked
NDTV: You can put away your 30,000 flash cards and focus on the $30,000 prize money you won. How are you going to spend it?
Snidgha Nandipati: I am probably going to save that for college. I want to be a neurosurgeon or a psychiatrist when I grow up. I want to go to Harvard but lets see. I may spend a little (smiles)
NDTV: As part of your big win you also get to meet President Obama?
Snidgha Nandipati: Yes, I am excited to meet President Obama but it could be in 2-3 months because they have to go through security procedures and also this is an election year so I don't know when I will be able to meet him but I am excited.
NDTV: Finally, Congratulations, this is a huge achievement. What is your next goal?
Oh god, I don't really know, I just can't believe I don't have to do any more spelling (giggles)
Story first published:
June 04, 2012 17:58 IST