English-Language Learners

New Mexico Student Wins Second Straight National Spanish Spelling Title

By Jacob Bell — July 22, 2015 1 min read
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After 19 rounds and four and a half hours of competition, Andres Arreola correctly spelled añagaza and omnisciencia to win the fifth annual National Spanish Spelling Bee. (In English, añagaza means lure, or decoy. Omnisciencia is a cognate that means omniscience.)

The win makes Arreola, an 8th grader from Sunland Park, N.M., the second back-to-back national champion in the competition’s history. The first was Judith Villa, who tied for first place in 2012 and was the sole winner in 2013.

Arreola and Villa are both students in the Gadsden school district in Sunland Park, which has sent representative spellers to the competition every year since its 2011 debut. Those two spellers will be acknowledged at a future school board meeting, wrote José Reyes, the bilingual instructional specialist for the district, in an email.

The 2015 National Spanish Spelling Bee had 26 participants from eight states: California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Kiara Vasquez of Beaverton, Ore., and Ashley Celaya of Miami finished second and third, respectively.

To prepare for the bee, students were given a list of more than 2,300 Spanish words to study. During the competition—which is open to students in grades 4 through 8—the spellers must keep in mind accent marks and differentiate between letters like “b” and “v” that sound similar when spelled out in Spanish.

Unlike the widely-known Scripps National Spelling Bee, the National Spanish Spelling Bee has no preliminary elimination rounds.

The competition represents a growing interest among parents and educators for non-English spelling bees and, to a larger extent, more bilingual and dual-language opportunities for their children and students.

This year’s installment took place on July 18 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Next year’s bee will be held in San Antonio, Texas.

Photo: Spanish Spelling Bee champion Andres Arreola with José Reyes, the bilingual instructional specialist in the Gadsden, N.M. school district. -- David Briseño, New Mexico Association of Bilingual Education.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.