Three people claiming to be New Zealanders said Chesterfield's contestant in 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee contestant was led astray by the judges' mispronunciation of the Maori-language word that eliminated him from the final championship round.
Gokul Venkatachalam, 11, had only 14 people left to outspell early Thursday, when he was given the Maori word "kahikatea." He spelled it without the "h" and was eliminated.
Apparently, the "h" in "kahikatea" is not silent, according to these three. But spelling bee officials did not pronounce the word correctly.
Maori is the native language of New Zealand. "Kahikatea" is a Maori word about a specific kind of evergreen tree.
Wikipedia says there are just 10,000 adults fluent in Maori in the world.
At about 2 a.m. Friday, Chesterfield Patch received an email providing a video with the pronunciation of the misspelled word. The editor exchanged several emails with Mrs Nili Em in the hopes of establishing whether the email was sincere.
A second and third person saying they are New Zealanders commented on this Chesterfield Patch article that the "h" is pronounced, and not silent.
Chesterfield Patch has a telephone call into Scripps over the topic, but has heard nothing in since early Friday.
Regardless, the following is the initial email. We will provide this information to Gokul and his family, Chesterfield residents.
"Hi, I don't know who I should be speaking to but I am from New Zealand and Maori is the native language of our country.
I just finished watching 2012 ESPN Spelling Bee and watched contestant number 141 Gokul Venkatachalam. The word he had to spell was a Maori noun KAHIKATEA.
The man that pronounced this word to Gokul was soooo WRONG!!
It is pronounced as it is spelt "car-hee-car-teh-ahhh". What I heard from this national spelling bee shown all over the world was "car-ee-car-tee-ahh" and another pronounciation the presenter said that was not accurate was "car-car-tee-ahh".
Here is a youtube link to a song with kahikatea in the title - the word 'kahikatea' begins after the 1st two syllables of this song:
Although I am more than 16,000 kilometres away, I strongly feel this must be put right, and your country's spelling bee researchers need to put in more work to making sure they are 100% accurate especially when dealing with words/pronounciations from other countries.
Hope someone can take this up with who needs to hear this.
Thank you, Mrs Nili Em