Surrey, B.C., girl heads to national spelling bee after arriving in Canada 2 years ago

·2 min read

A nine-year-old Surrey, B.C., girl is heading to the Spelling Bee of Canada Championships later this month, just two years after immigrating to Canada from India and perfecting her English.

Harbin Kaur, a Grade 4 student at the Khalsa School, Newton campus, won the title last month for best junior speller in B.C.

"My dad started pushing me to learn English and then I just tried to read as many books as I can," said Kaur.

Her family moved to Canada from India two years ago. While she spoke some English before arriving, Kaur mainly spoke Hindi and Punjabi at home.

But over the past two years she has excelled at the new language, says Khalsa School principal Corazon Pabo. She says the Grade 4 student is a writer beyond her years.

"Her words were just amazing ... you'd think she was in Grade 6 or 7," said Pabo.


Harkuljit Singh, Harbin's dad, says he's proud of his daughter and called her talent "God's gift."

"We are trying to nurture whatever she wants to do," Singh said, saying Kaur was very keen to participate in the spelling bee when she saw her classmates join in.

Julie Spence, the founder of the Spelling Bee of Canada, says the kids who don't speak English as a first language are always impressive contestants.

"They're always very serious about it and recognize that what it takes is discipline," said Spence.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Kaur beat out 64 other contenders to win the title of best junior speller in B.C.

Normally Kaur would be heading to the nationals in Toronto on Nov. 29, but this year the Canadian championships are being held remotely via Zoom during the pandemic.

But whether on stage or online, she's ready.

"My goals are actually coming true," she said.