Why Are Indians So Good at Spelling?

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When 14-year-old Snigdha Nandipati, an eighth-grade student from San Diego, California, correctly spelt the French word guetapens (snare, ambush or trap in English) to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee 2012, she validated what everyone now seems to believe as hard fact—that Indians are just too good at spelling. In the past 10 years, Indians have won the title eight times. But while everyone seems to be applauding this trend as an indication of our intellectual ability, does knowing how to spell a word like guetapens, which Nandipati will probably never encounter in her future, really matter? There has been much discussion about this online, with some asking if this is rather indicative of our strength at studying by rote. If anything, this trend of Indians dominating the competition is becoming even more pronounced. Indians took the first spot in each of the last five years and all three top places in this year’s contest that finished on 31 May. According to media reports, Nandipati’s father has been training his daughter since she was four years old, and he has used around 30,000 flash cards to help her memorise particularly tough words.