Reading Time: 3 minutesTwins Harpith and Harpita are set to show their spelling prowess on new program The Great Australian Spelling Bee
A pair of Indian Australian twins are set to keep Australia spellbound as they appear on Channel Ten’s new program The Great Australian Spelling Bee.
Brother and sister super spellers Harpith and Harpita, at just eight years old, will appear against some of Australia’s brightest young people in attempt to spell their way to the top.
Harpith and Harpita, who hail from Melbourne, were born one minute apart, premature at 34 weeks in India. Their parents migrated to Australia when the twins were four months old. Dad Pandian says the fun-loving kids took some time to catch up in terms of weight and development, but are now at the same level, if not exceeding, their peers at school.
“They picked up spelling last year after joining the local Spellmasters Australia,” he says. Spellmasters is an organisation encouraging young Australians to participate in spelling competitions that will help to improve their understanding of the English language. Last year the pair reached the finals of the Junior competition and both have a distinct love of words.
Demonstrating how technology can be used to enhance education, the kids started learning on their own as “gifted independent learners” by playing word games on the iPad. “It’s about making learning a joy for them,” Pandian says.
Seasoned spelling bee competitors, Harpith and Harpita like to spend time after dinner playing word games, building their ‘Word Bank’ and researching the origins of different words.
“It was amazing to appear on the show,” Harpita says. “I have made lots of friends and the hosts (Chrissy Swan and Grant Denyer) are very funny,” she giggles.
Harpita says she and her brother regularly practice their spelling together, trying to understand the pronunciation, origin and meaning of various words. “It’s about learning why a word is special,” she says.
“We have around 50,000 words in our Word Bank,” she continues. “We add around 30 new words a day. I see words everywhere in my daily life – at school, in books, at home. I still have so much to learn, but I know I’m going to be a champion one day.”
Harpita says her favourite word is ‘cafune’, a word of Brazilian Portuguese origin which means the act of running fingers through a loved one’s hair. She also like the words celebration and phenomenal.
Telling me the longest and hardest word he knows, Harpith says his favourite word is ‘Floccinaucinihilipilification’. One of the longest words in the English language it means the action or habit of estimating something as worthless. He also likes the words ebullient, glockenspiel, avouch, bijou and aplomb.
“All my friends are very impressed,” he says. “When we came back from filming in Sydney they all wanted to know what happened, but I told them ‘It’s a surprise!’”
Both kids want to become doctors when they’re older, in part because their mum, Priya, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when she was pregnant which later developed into Type 1 diabetes. She has to follow a strict diet and exercise program.
“Priya was always mindful not to inject her insulin in front of the children,” Pandian says. “But when they were around three years old they developed this fascination with science and decided they wanted to be doctors to help people like their mum.”
Indeed, Harpith says he wants to be a neurosurgeon and volunteer for UNICEF, while Harpitha says she wants to be a cardio-thoracic and also volunteer for UNICEF. Both spend lots of time reading science books which might help explain their advanced vocabulary.
Pandian says his twins are very sociable and extroverted and hopes they will do well on the show. “People said to us during filming, ‘You and your wife are not so outgoing, where do they get it?’ They just have this natural confidence and a real desire to learn.”