As one might expect from a spelling bee champion, Wells Middle School student Aanya Joshi is not short for words when it comes to describing her recent victory at the Alameda County Office of Education Junior High Spelling Bee.
The seventh-grader scored her wordy win -- as well as a spot in this year's state spelling bee championship -- by correctly spelling "neophyte" at the regional competition held shortly before the shelter-in-place order was announced in March.
After rising through the spelling bee ranks in Dublin Unified School District during fourth, fifth and sixth grades, Joshi said she advanced to the county spelling bee this last year by studying flashcards and online word lists, plus reading the dictionary.
"Winning county felt amazing," Joshi told the Weekly. "I couldn't believe that I'd won because I didn't think I'd studied hard enough, but it was really an amazing experience. Even if I'd lost, it would've been amazing just to be on stage."
Besides the thrill of winning, Joshi said she also enjoys deepening her linguistic knowledge.
"There's a lot of words in English and they're also from different languages, and each word has so much history and they come from different roots," she said. "I find that really fascinating that if you break down words, they're like puzzle pieces that fit definitions."
Because Joshi can encounter an unfamiliar word in any competition, studying those pieces of information is crucial for winning: "If you know root words and where that word would come from, if they give you the language of origin and you know the rules from that language, you can pretty much break down the word and guess, and probably guess right."
However, Joshi said that she's stumbled across some words that she couldn't figure out, like "vichyssoise" (a French potato and leek soup).
But Joshi's mother, Priyanka, said that she couldn't be more proud and called her daughter's recent victory "an immense moment" for the family.
"Aanya's always been great at spelling ever since she was little and she always won her class spelling bee," Priyanka said.
As a doctor working the night, Priyanka had to pull some strings to attend the county spelling bee. "It was such an immense moment for all of us and I was lucky enough to be there, thankfully, because I had to switch shifts," Priyanka said. "I wouldn't have missed this moment for the world. I just hope she makes it to the state because with everything going on I'm not sure when it's going to happen. They tell us fall but we'll keep our fingers crossed and see."
The state spelling bee was originally supposed to take place on May 2 "but the coronavirus pandemic changed the plans of that," Aanya said. "They're trying to make plans to do it later this year in the fall, but I don't know if that's going to happen. I just hope they don't have to cancel it because Scripps already canceled their Spelling Bee."
Aanya continued, "I was just looking forward to going there, giving it my best and leaving the rest. Win or lose, it would be a great experience."