Twins who can easily hold you spell-bound

Twins who can easily hold you spell-bound

You know you are at a loss for words when an eight-year old tells you his favourite word is the tricky 29-letterfloccinaucinihilipilification. One of the longest words in the English language, it means the action or habit of estimating something as worthless, you are also told. For eight-year old Harpith and his twin sister Harpita, theirlove for words knows no bounds. Every day they pick new words randomly and learn to spell them, a habit that has resulted in a wordbanks of over 50,000 words in the past one year.
These days the twins are certainly enjoying more than their five minutes of fame. At school and elsewhere, people walk up to them and say,“We saw you on TV last night” at which they give a modest “Oh cool” reply and walk on before they get accosted by someone else. Channel Ten’s promos on The Great Australian Spelling Bee, premiering 7.30 Monday, August 3 shows glimpses of these two siblings fighting it out to compete among a bunch of other kids from all over the country.
So how did they develop an interest in spelling and words?
Harpita says that as a child, her parents would read out stories before they went to bed. ‘That’s how we actually listened to words. Then later when we came across those words we said hang on, let’s find out what the word means.”
“We don’t always practice but we do it as a fun thing. We also make it a bit competitive so we have a scoreboard and whoever wins gets the points. We pick a couple of words and ask each other if we know these words, if it is too easy we grab another set of words. We look at the dictionary for meaning and for some tricky words.Then we find out how that word is pronounced; is that word really special?Is that word plain?How many letters, etc.,” adds Harpita, who also has a keen interest in writing.Both are grade 3 students.
Because of their sweaty spirit of competition with each other, their teachers at school decided to separate them and put them in different classes. “They felt it would allow also them to grow individually,” says their father Pandian, a software engineer from Tamil Nadu who has been living in Australia for the past eight years.
At school their favourite subject is mental math but they don’t find the other subjects too easy. “We find them at the right standard for us. We like math, we were in competition for mental arithmetic and we gold medals there,” says a proud Harpith.
Of course the spelling test in school is always a cakewalk for these delightful twinswho display a level of maturity as they switch off from their peer group. “It was very funny the other day because we did our spelling test and when I went up to the teacher, she said the words were too easy for me and that I was in the highest level. So she said ‘I have no idea what to do with you now’. She can’t move us; we are on the grade 6 level in spelling,” says Harpita.
Last September, the twins took part in the Victorian Spellmasters competition and earned a place in the finals which had about 40 finalists comprising grade 1 to grade 5 participants in the junior section. This year too both were fighting for the first spot and ended with Harpith bagging the first place and Harpita the second in the junior division of Spellmasters. Now both are through to the finals to be held in November.
These small kids also harbour tall dreams. Haprita says she wants to become a cardio surgeon when she grows up and help people who have heart diseases. “The idea came when I first learnt about the human body. I wanted to know more about myself but then I realised I also have a human body, then I realised the heart is an important part so I decided to go with the heart because if you don’t have a healthy heart, unfortunately you won’t live. I want to help others too.”
Harpith says he has a similar interest but because his sister has already chosen the heart, he would like to study the brain and become a neuro surgeon. “I was thinking heart but she already took the heart.So after a long thought I chose the brain.”
The trickiest word they have encountered is also the longest one – the 29 letter floccinaucinihilipilification, which is also Harpith’s favourite. For Harpita it is cafune, of
Brazilian Portuguese origin. “It’s when your mother runs down her fingers through your head, it feels so safe,”she explains.
The twins parents Priya and Pandian say they have never pushed them to learn anything but where they are now has been driven by their own interest.
Do people findyou cute? “Yes”, they answer unanimously. It is not hard to fall under their spell.