Spelling It as a Family

Darren Leong Wei Jin, 14, a Form 2 student from St Michael’s Institution, who was Perak’s Champion at NST’s secondary level Spell-It–Right (SIR) annual competition while at the national level competition he was the runner up.

Darren has been participating in NST’s SIR since he was in Standard 5 and was the primary level National Champion in 2011. Darren collected a prize money of RM10,000 for the national runner-up and RM5000 for the state championship.

The SIR competition is no easy feat as finalists this year had to spell words like “schlep”, “cognoscente” and “anthropopsychism” which is a feat in itself just trying to pronounce it.

Nevertheless, this year’s competition saw thousands register themselves to participate with Perak alone over 500 student registration.

Darren is your ordinary student next door who plays football, tennis, badminton, is a Prefect and also the Patrol Leader for his school’s 2nd Kinta Scout Troop and joined the school debating team this year.

On the morning when I interviewed him he had just come in from a football game.

He described this year’s SIR contest as “nerve wrecking” but added that he was more diligent in his preparation this year. He resorted to using the internet to look up new words and to watch spelling contests such as ‘The Scripps National Spelling Bee’ online.

Last year was Darren’s first year entering the secondary-level competition. However, he had failed to qualify for the finals.


A further check with his parents Andrew and Yvonne indicated that they too helped a few months before the start of the competition. Mum Yvonne would write new words on the whiteboard, add new words into his spelling scrap book, and as the competition date got closer, spelled together with Darren.

All in, it appeared like a team effort as dad Andrew said if he has the potential “we should try to maximise it for him”.

For now life is a regular routine again. New words are still written on the whiteboard but not frequently and when the competition draws near “we will start again lah” said Darren with bright eyes and a natural nonchalant smile.


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