Transcripts

How Do You Spell W-I-N?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:35:02
In this age of autocorrect and spell check, it's easy to get a little bit, you know, a little bit lax about your spelling. Unless, of course, spelling a word wrong means this (bell dinging) .

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:35:13
That is the dreaded sound of defeat at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the mother, the queen of all bees. The competition is held in or near D.C. every year but get this, no one from the District has ever actually won the thing. But that's not stopping Donovan Jordan, who beat out more than 2,000 of the city's best spellers to represent D.C. at nationals. Emily Friedman went to his home in Northwest D.C. to find out how he's preparing for the ultimate spelling showdown.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

13:35:45
Donovan Jordan likes to win.

DONOVAN JORDAN

13:35:47
People sometimes get mad at me because they're like, "Why do you want to win everything? Why are you always winning?"

FRIEDMAN

13:35:52
And because he's in it to win it, Donovan is studying at least four hours a day, which might seem like a lot but if you take a look at his spelling list it starts to make sense.

JORDAN

13:36:03
They can pick any word from this dictionary right here.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:06
Oh my gosh. Yes, bring it over here.

JORDAN

13:36:09
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the unabridged version.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:14
There are nearly 500,000 words in that dictionary and in order to win the bee Donovan needs to learn all of them, well, that or...

JORDAN

13:36:21
Just got to get lucky I guess.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:23
But since he'd rather not rely on luck, one by one, Donovan looks up the words on dictionary.com and writes out the word five times.

JORDAN

13:36:32
Tripelennamine T-R-I...

FRIEDMAN

13:36:34
He learns about one word every two minutes.

JORDAN

13:36:39
Quinquagesima.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:40
His favorite word happens to be the longest one in the dictionary. It's pneumonoultramicroscopic--

JORDAN

13:36:46
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:50
Where'd you hear that word?

JORDAN

13:36:52
My mom.

MS. DENISE ROLSANDERS

13:36:52
Not only Donovan is in the spelling bee but the whole family is.

FRIEDMAN

13:36:55
That's Denise Rolsanders.

ROLSANDERS

13:36:57
A lot of times we're going through and we're reading the definitions and the etymology of the words. Some of the words I can't pronounce and I'm, like, "oh, that's what that means."

FRIEDMAN

13:37:05
Denise is an attorney but back when Donovan was a baby she was just beginning law school. Donovan, she says, was a fussy baby. And the only thing that really calmed him down was hearing his mom read aloud from her law school textbooks. That, she says, was how this all began.

ROLSANDERS

13:37:21
If he hears something one time, he can really retain it.

JORDAN

13:37:27
Quinquennial. I feel like I a photographic memory so if I look at something I can know it but if I write it down I feel like I mastered the word.

FRIEDMAN

13:37:35
Donovan's a quick learner. That's his strength but as in any competition you must know your weakness. According to Donovan he has three. First of all, he's young.

JORDAN

13:37:45
There's not really a lot of sixth graders. Just shows, like, a lot of seventh and eighth graders.

FRIEDMAN

13:37:50
Weakness number two, he's never been to the competition before. Some of the spellers have competed two, maybe three times. And number three...

JORDAN

13:37:57
The only language that I have mastered is English. Some of these other people, some of them are like out of the United States. Like in Ghana and China and Europe and you know that these people know more than one language.

FRIEDMAN

13:38:11
And all that does make him feel a little anxious.

JORDAN

13:38:14
It feels nervous, exciting and nervous again. It's been a dream, oh, I want to win, I want to go. But now it's like I'm going.

FRIEDMAN

13:38:24
So when he really needs to take a break, Donovan likes to watch a movie called "Acela and The Bee." It's about an African-American girl who unexpectedly makes it to the national spelling bee and actually, well, I won't spoil the ending but let's just say Donovan finds it very motivational. I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

13:38:46
You can find out more about the Scripps National Spelling Bee on our website. That's metroconnection.org.
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