Is there the equivalent of spelling bees in other languages?

So English has a lot of strange spellings for words. There are almost as many exceptions to any rule as there are words following. Some words have extra letters just for the heck of it, others are pronounced completely differently based on the tense in which they are read.

It's such a mess that apparently simply being able to spell correctly is a feat worthy of acclaim in the form of contests. That makes me wonder, do more sensibly structured languages also have events similar to spelling bees?

That's definitely a shower thought.

Maybe for some, but apparently the concept is puzzling to a lot of non-English speakers.

Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

I was actually thinking he meant ideographs from Asian Languages. But I could have been wrong.

No contests that I can think of, but there used to be an annual tv game show where people were tested on their spelling.

Participants were mostly middle aged people.

Now I have this weird desire to watch Hey Arnold and write "onomatopoeia".

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

We do have the 'Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal' which can be roughly translated as the grand spelling test of the Dutch language. I say roughly because dictee is normally a form of test in primary schools where the teacher dictates sentences to be transcribed by the students, to be looked at after to see if they can spell the words and have decent handwriting. I don't know an English phrase that means quite the same as that. I think the 'Groot Dictee' is getting less popular. I think it works slightly different in that somebody reads you a sentence or piece of text, which you have to transcribe correctly. The person with the least mistakes in the whole thing wins but this is checked after handing in your all the transcriptions. What I've seen of American spelling bees, they work a little different.

Drathnoxis:

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

I don't know about logographic writing systems like Japanese but surely any language based on the Greek/Latin alphabet is going to have some version of a spelling bee used to teach proper spelling & writing.

Johnny Novgorod:

Drathnoxis:

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

I don't know about logographic writing systems like Japanese but surely any language based on the Greek/Latin alphabet is going to have some version of a spelling bee used to teach proper spelling & writing.

The concept of testing if a person is capable of spelling is probably fairly universal, and I imagine a huge deal in languages like simplified Chinese that have hundreds of characters and you can accidentally change meanings by being a crappy handwriter. That said, I was always under the impression that the "stand in front of a crowd and spell words" thing is really a North American thing centered mostly on the US. It blew me away when I found out that not only is it a fairly big deal, but massive scholarships and competitions are centered around it in the US.

Johnny Novgorod:
I don't know about logographic writing systems like Japanese but surely any language based on the Greek/Latin alphabet is going to have some version of a spelling bee used to teach proper spelling & writing.

I think what OP believes to be 'special' about English and it's rather haphazard relationship with phonetic spelling (or rather, a lack thereof), is the somewhat free and loose 'rules' that are drawn from historic standards developed and agreed upon at different points in time by different groups of people with little (read: no) effort by central government to integrate or standardise anything ('correct' spelling in English, with very few exceptions, came about thanks to consensus, not by rule, and while this is true for many languages, the blurred lines of English's linguistic heritage make said consensus an exercise in madness). Which causes crap like: tough; though; thought; and through, all of which draw the 'ough' letter cluster from largely different etymological roots.

ObsidianJones:
I was actually thinking he meant ideographs from Asian Languages. But I could have been wrong.

'Spelling' in (East-)Asian ('cos that's my point of reference) is variously pointless and impractical:

Vietnamese uses Latin with heavy application of diacritics and is entirely phonetic.
Thai (and by association Lao) is written using syllabic characters (best analogy are kana from Japanese) which also infer tone, which, consequently, is entirely phonetic.
Tagalog (AFAIK) uses Latin script with diacritics and is, again, entirely phonetic.
Korean hangul is entirely phonetic and hanja (more below) aren't used for the most part to the extent that 'spelling bees' would not be practical given the scarcity of characters used by the general population.
Japanese hiragana and katakana are also entirely phonetic and kanji have a similar problem as above Korean hanja (again, more below), if to a much lesser extent.

And now for the kicker: Chinese (hanzi); and by extension hanja and kanji. From a practical standpoint, these are impractical to vocally spell. Seriously, how do you 'spell' 輛 for example? Say 'vehicle-two (meas.)'?(!) Saying how you'd write the character by stipulating stroke placement and order is dumb (go on, spell 龜 in that way, I dare you!). But OK, perhaps instead of saying, how's about writing? Part of the challenge of spelling bees is to provide words that the participants would not be expected to actually know, but by analysing their own vocabulary, spelling conventions and educated guesswork have fair odds of spelling correctly. This cannot be (reasonably) applied to Chinese/Japanese/Korean. In a linguistic vacuum, how a character is pronounced (be it hanzi/kanji/hanja, and don't even get me started on kunyomi vs onyomi (not to mention the multitude of onyomi readings) or the various Chinese dialectal differences in reading hanzi) has literally zero bearing on its meaning (like... across the world, how many ways are there to pronounce this most simple of characters: 一 ? More to the point, how are these pronunciations phonetically related (even just in Chinese or just in Japanese)?). Worse yet, every character in Chinese (irrespective of how complicated its script and definition is) is monosyllabic while in Japanese it can be mono-, di- or even tri-syllabic but the syllable count has, again, literally zero bearing on anything else to do with the character in question (can't speak for hanja, so won't). Further, character construction can be done in one of four ways (by literal ideography, by phonology, by definition built on a previous character, or by character loan), any combination of which can be relevant for a particular character. Consequently, for a character that a 'spelling bee' participant has not been educated in, providing a contextual sentence demonstrating usage of the character is virtually useless, as constructing a character from existing vocabulary is just not a thing.

*dramatic shrug*

I don't think we really have spelling bees, or at least not like in English-speaking countries, but in the Netherlands and the Flanders part of Belgium we have the "Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal". Literally the "Great Dictation of the Dutch Language", it's a yearly contest with 30 Dutch and 30 Flanders participants who are dictated a particularly tricky text, which they then have to write down correctly. Used to be televised nationally in both countries.

It goes a little beyond just spelling, since you also need to take into account proper grammar and punctuation to write correct sentences.

It seems like a bad idea; other languages are much harder to spell.

Baffle2:
It seems like a bad idea; other languages are much harder to spell.

To you, perhaps, but I doubt very much their native speakers feel differently about English, or that they find their own language inherently difficult to spell (or equivalent).

SckizoBoy:

Baffle2:
It seems like a bad idea; other languages are much harder to spell.

To you, perhaps, but I doubt very much their native speakers feel differently about English, or that they find their own language inherently difficult to spell (or equivalent).

Can't speak for Baffle's truest darkest and most definitely criminal intentions, but I do believe that was meant to be the joke. Unless it wasn't. In which case...

Neurotic Void Melody:

SckizoBoy:

Baffle2:
It seems like a bad idea; other languages are much harder to spell.

To you, perhaps, but I doubt very much their native speakers feel differently about English, or that they find their own language inherently difficult to spell (or equivalent).

Can't speak for Baffle's truest darkest and most definitely criminal intentions, but I do believe that was meant to be the joke.

I'd forgotten that I wasn't supposed to do jokes any more. :(

EvilRoy:

Johnny Novgorod:

Drathnoxis:
Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

I don't know about logographic writing systems like Japanese but surely any language based on the Greek/Latin alphabet is going to have some version of a spelling bee used to teach proper spelling & writing.

The concept of testing if a person is capable of spelling is probably fairly universal, and I imagine a huge deal in languages like simplified Chinese that have hundreds of characters and you can accidentally change meanings by being a crappy handwriter. That said, I was always under the impression that the "stand in front of a crowd and spell words" thing is really a North American thing centered mostly on the US. It blew me away when I found out that not only is it a fairly big deal, but massive scholarships and competitions are centered around it in the US.

It's probably more popular (and life-changing, apparently) there than in most places, but spelling bees aren't uniquely a US thing.

Drathnoxis:

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

As cultures continue to communicate with each other and rub off on one another, we'll likely see the same curiosities of English become part of their languages too. There's a lot of weird spellings in English because a lot of the words come from other languages. As other languages continue to take phrases and words from their neighbors they will also begin to change.

Does the UK have spelling bees?

CaitSeith:
Does the UK have spelling bees?

Apparently we do, but it looks like its basically get-bullied central. By the parents first, then everyone else.

SckizoBoy:
I think what OP believes to be 'special' about English and it's rather haphazard relationship with phonetic spelling (or rather, a lack thereof), is the somewhat free and loose 'rules' that are drawn from historic standards developed and agreed upon at different points in time by different groups of people with little (read: no) effort by central government to integrate or standardise anything ('correct' spelling in English, with very few exceptions, came about thanks to consensus, not by rule, and while this is true for many languages, the blurred lines of English's linguistic heritage make said consensus an exercise in madness). Which causes crap like: tough; though; thought; and through, all of which draw the 'ough' letter cluster from largely different etymological roots.

It is fairly recently I was working near a place called Loughborough. Where the first ough is "uff" and the second is "uh" (the whole thing being "luff-buh-ruh"). Which even as a native English speaker I think is cheating.

I don't think Spelling Bees are really as much a thing in the UK as they are in the US. I'm sure they happen but they never seem to be the big "all the school comes to watch" things that the yanks have

Baffle2:
I'd forgotten that I wasn't supposed to do jokes any more. :(

I'm pretty high on the retard scale, I don't take jokes unless they slap me full in the face. I'm sorry, I suppose.

Palindromemordnilap:
It is fairly recently I was working near a place called Loughborough. Where the first ough is "uff" and the second is "uh" (the whole thing being "luff-buh-ruh"). Which even as a native English speaker I think is cheating.

Try pronouncing 'Beaulieu'... here's a clue: don't try thinking in French...!

As it goes, British placenames probably hold the record for highest incidence of unintuitive pronunciation in its (purportedly) native language. Mousehole, any county ending in -shire, anything ending in -cester, Leominster, Cholmondeley, Godmanchester etc. etc. and even a lot of the better known places (by Brits, that is), pause a take a moment to think about the phonetics vs the spelling and you really wonder how English is, in any way shape or form, a 'standardised' language.

There's nothing quite like an american Spelling Bee, where a kid stands on a stage and recites words, letter-by-letter. Unless, not that i'm aware of...

The polish version of that would be "Dyktando", which sorta does the reverse thing; a lector is dictating a text, that you then write down correctly. The tricky part here are the ortographic rules. For example: "?" and "u" are two vowels that sound exactly the same, but both have place in texts in polish. On the other hand, unlike in english, letters are spelt in just one way.

Baffle2:
I'd forgotten that I wasn't supposed to do jokes any more. :(

Well, to be fair, if a mind isn't prepped to expect humour, a lot can slip by, especially from a different culture who may not be as attuned to dry humour the way some are. Is kinda of why I get mini-panics at the thought of all the crap I've said being taken seriously, before promptly killing them off with nearby alcohol or hammers and compulsively carrying on with it anyway. Also funerals. People take things very seriously at funerals. The riskiest of situations to deploy humour.

Specter Von Baren:

Drathnoxis:

Johnny Novgorod:
Um yeah? What's so English about spelling?
It's "concurso de deletreo" in Spanish.

Well just that I've heard other languages tend to stick more to their phonetic rules and English is just all over the place. I was just curious if they were a thing in other countries/languages.

As cultures continue to communicate with each other and rub off on one another, we'll likely see the same curiosities of English become part of their languages too. There's a lot of weird spellings in English because a lot of the words come from other languages. As other languages continue to take phrases and words from their neighbors they will also begin to change.

Some cultures are pretty fast to change the spelling of an imported word to what makes sense phonetically. Some other cultures import the spelling but then pronounce the new word as written, even if it sounds nothing like the original.

And then many countries have official language reforms that modify spelling to fit (the ever evolving) pronounciation.

Now English has not the most unituitive spelling of all languages with phonetic alphabeths. But it is cerainly one of the leading contenders.

Neurotic Void Melody:
People take things very seriously at funerals. The riskiest of situations to deploy humour.

And yet the one where people are most in need of cheering up.

Baffle2:
And yet the one where people are most in need of cheering up.

Indeed! The payoff is quite the allure, if one doesn't mind the hefty gamble involved.

Drathnoxis:
It's such a mess that apparently simply being able to spell correctly is a feat worthy of acclaim in the form of contests.

I always saw that less as a reflection of the language itself, and more a reflection of how incredibly boring people like to spend their time.

It sounds really boring to be honest. We have some dumb game shows and that big brother garbage here, but I don't think I've ever seen a spelling contest on brazilian TV. I guess we're more interested in bikini babes doing stupid stuff, like this:

NSFW-ish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPu4aUY8uDE

I think it's fair to say that this is more educational.

Not really.

French has dict?es, but I can't recall a single proper spelling bee.

Specter Von Baren:
Relevant. Had this pop in my new tab.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/english-is-not-normal?utm_source=pocket-newtab

That was very long. But pretty interesting.

As an Englishman I always found the idea of Spelling Bees one of the trashier Stateside inventions. The English language is tricky, sure, but elevating something as fundamental as SPELLING to a status where you're considered exceptional and given prizes if you can do it? Good grief. I don't know if that's how it's perceived in the US, but to me it sounds like one of the most anti-intellectual statements you could make.

Almost as unsettling is the suburban sweatshop industry of kids who get "coached" for spelling competitions by their insufferable helicopter parents. It's like dressage or pedigree dog shows for preteens. Yuck.

 

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