Twins battle through competitive spell

Grant Denyer prepares Harpita for her turn on Channel Ten's <i>The Great Australian Spelling Bee</i>.
Grant Denyer prepares Harpita for her turn on Channel Ten's The Great Australian Spelling BeePhoto: Supplied

There is nothing too unusual about a bit of healthy competition between siblings every now and then. But what happens when the battle between brother and sister is carried out in front of a national television audience?

According to eight-year-old spelling stars Harpith and Harpita it results in a great deal of nerves all around.

"When it comes to a spelling competition, we turn into rivals temporarily," Harpita explains. "I know my brother is a fantastic speller and he helps me to learn new words, so I always have a soft spot for him and I feel bad whenever he gets a tricky word."

Harpita is up against her brother Harpith on Channel Ten's <i>The Great Australian Spelling Bee</i>.
Harpita is up against her brother Harpith on Channel Ten's The Great Australian Spelling BeePhoto: Supplied

Harpith agrees watching his sister compete makes him almost as anxious as when it is his own turn to take to the spelling stage.

"When it comes to a spelling competition it is always nail biting to watch my sister," he says. "I know she is a very good speller and that always make me nervous."

Harpith and Harpita are among 52 of the nation's bright young spellers aged between eight and 13 appearing on The Great Australian Spelling Bee, which premieres Monday night.

The contestants were drawn from a pool of 3000 children nationwide and made it through to the televised rounds.

GASB is being promoted with the tagline "little kids, big words" and is described as "a supercharged spelling bee set to transform spelling into spectacular family television."

The show will see spellers compete in a number of word-related games and challenges before culminating with the top four spellers earning the right to compete in The Ultimate Spelling Bee. Only one speller will be crowned the champion.

Co-Host Grant Denyer, who admits to being a "terrible speller" himself,  describes the show as "edge of your seat viewing." 

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He says he and fellow host Chrissie Swan were blown away by how full of personality the young spelling whizzes were.

"When I first joined the show I thought we might be getting a bunch of little robots, but nothing could be further from the truth," he says 

"I think viewers are going to be surprised about how brave, caring and just hilarious these kids are."

Harpita and the other contestants watch on as Harpith has his turn.
Harpita and the other contestants watch on as Harpith has his turn.  Photo: Supplied

There is no doubt the young contestants are also highly intelligent.

Harpith says his favourite word is floccinaucinihilipilification (the action or habit of estimating something as worthless) while Harpita prefers the less letter heavy 'cafune' (a Brazilian word meaning the act of running your fingers through your loved one's hair).

The pair, from Melbourne, have been avid readers since they were three-years-old and have 50,000 words in their Word Banks on their iPads - adding an average of 30 new words a day.

Harpith knows his sister is a very good speller and that "makes him nervous".
Harpith knows his sister is a very good speller and that "makes him nervous". Photo: Supplied

"There are many techniques you can practice to become a good speller," Harpita explains. 

"Have a passion for words and read lots of books. You have to regularly practice spelling, try to understand the pronunciation, origin and meaning of the words. 

"Words are everywhere in daily life - at school, in books, at super markets and shops, on TV." 

The twins were born prematurely at 34 weeks in India before their parents Priya and Pandian migrated to Australia.

Their parents say the appearance of Harpith and Harpita on GASB is a source of pride and also nerves

"We are always proud of them. We certainly felt a combination of both during the filming of the show.

"The competition was of such a high standard and it was truly nerve-racking.

"It was so important that we did not show any emotions when both were competing against each other." 

​The Great Australian Spelling Bee will premiere tonight at 7.30pm on Channel Ten.