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Alliance Française Rules for French Spelling Bee Contest


1) EligibilityA speller qualifying for the finals must meet these requirements:


(1) The speller must to be still either in grade 5/6, or grade 7/9 or grade 10/12 at the time of the finals.

(2) The speller must attend a school, but not necessarily be enrolled in a French class.

(3) The speller must declare any academic proficiency examinations, and/or examinations such as the PSAT, SAT or ACT in French.

(4) The speller – or the speller’s parent, legal guardian- could be French or Francophone as long as the speller is living in the United States for over 1 year.

(5) The speller must register with a French teacher as referee.

(6) The speller must not eschew normal school activity to study for French Spelling Bee.

(7) The speller must not have any relatives working as a jury member of the French Spelling Bee or in the French Spelling Bee committee.

The French Spelling Bee – also referred as FSB - committee may disqualify prior or during competition any speller who is not in compliance with any of its eligibility requirements. It may require any speller who is found to have not been in compliance with any of the eligibility requirements to forfeit the prizes, rank and other benefits accorded to the speller as a result of participation in the FSB finals.

2) Format: 

A French Spelling Bee is conducted in rounds. Each speller remaining in the spelling bee at the start of a round spells one word in each round. The French Spelling Bee is conducted orally.


3) Word list:

French Spelling Bee officials are responsible for selecting the word lists for use in their spelling bees. These word lists include words that appear in the sole edition of  resources: The Grand Larousse Illustré 2021. This resource is the final authority and sole source for the spelling of words. The word lists for the part one French Spelling Bee will be provided to the teacher referees and accessible to the participants. The word lists for the part two competition will not be accessible.

4) Pronouncer’s role:

The pronouncer strives to pronounce words according to the diacritical markings in FSB word lists.

  • Every word: the pronouncer will indicate singular or plural - noun, verb, adjective, or adverb etc. and gender if needed before pronouncing the word.

  • Homonyms: If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer indicates which word is to be spelled by defining the word.

  • Speller’s requests : The pronouncer responds to the speller’s requests for a definition, sentence, part of speech, language(s) of origin and alternate pronunciation(s). The pronouncer does not entertain root word questions, requests for alternate definitions or requests for slower pronunciation.

  • Pronouncer’s sense of helpfulness: The pronouncer may offer word information — without the speller having requested the information — if the pronouncer senses that the information is helpful and the information is presented in the entry for the word in a FSB word list.

5) Judges’ role:

The judges uphold the rules and determine whether or not words are spelled correctly. They also render final decisions on appeals in accordance with Rule 10. They are in complete control of the competition and their decision is final on all questions.

  • Interaction with the speller: Because seeing the speller’s lip movements may be critical in detecting misunderstandings or misspellings, the judges encourage spellers to face them when pronouncing and spelling the word.

  • Notice of rules: The judges ensure that all spellers and audience members are given an opportunity to receive a complete copy of the rules prior to the start of the spelling bee.

  • Misunderstandings: The judges participate in the exchange of information between the speller and pronouncer if they feel that clarification is needed. Also, the judges listen carefully to the speller’s pronunciation of the word; and, if they sense that the speller has misunderstood the word, the judges work with the speller and pronouncer until they are satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to assist the speller in understanding the word. While the judges are responsible for attempting to detect a speller’s misunderstanding, it is sometimes impossible to detect a misunderstanding until an error has been made. The judges are not responsible for the speller’s misunderstanding.

  • Pronouncer errors: The judges compare the pronouncer’s pronunciation with the diacritical markings in the word list. If the judges feel that the pronouncer’s pronunciation does not match the pronunciation specified in the diacritical markings, the judges direct the pronouncer to correct the error as soon as it is detected.

  • Disqualifications for reasons other than error: The judges will disqualify a speller

(1) who refuses a request to start spelling;

(2) who does not approach the microphone when it is time to receive the word;

(3) who does not comply with the eligibility requirements;

(4) who engages in unsportsmanlike conduct;

(5) who, in the process of retracing a spelling, alters the letters or sequence of letters from those first uttered;

(6) who, in the process of spelling, utters unintelligible or nonsense sounds,

(7) for failing to pronounce the word either before or after spelling it;

(8) for noting or failing to note the capitalization of a word, the presence of a diacritical mark, the presence of a hyphen or other form of punctuation, or spacing between words;

(9) who does not finish the spelling of the word within the time limit of 60-seconds.

6) Speller’s role:

In a spelling round, the speller makes an effort to face the judges and pronounce the word for the judges before spelling it and after spelling it. The speller while facing the judges makes an effort to utter each letter distinctly and with sufficient volume to be understood by the judges. The speller may ask the pronouncer to say the word again, define it, use it in a sentence, provide the part of speech, provide the language(s) of origin, and/or provide an alternate pronunciation or pronunciations . However, the timer does not stop while the speller ask questions. The speller has 60 seconds to spell the word.

7) Correction of a misspelling:

The pronouncer and judges will not ask the speller to correct another speller’s misspelling, even in end-of-bee circumstances.

8) Errors:

Upon providing an incorrect spelling of a word, the speller immediately drops out of the competition, except as provided in Rule 9.

9) End-of-bee procedure:

  • If all spellers in a round misspell: If none of the spellers remaining in the spelling bee at the start of a round spells a word correctly during that round, all remain in the competition and a new spelling round begins.

  • Ties : All spellers eliminated in the same round are tied for the same place. After the champion has been determined, spelling bee officials may opt to conduct tiebreakers (of their own design) if tiebreakers are necessary for the awarding of prizes or the determination of qualifying spellers for the next level of competition.

  • If only one speller in a round spells correctly: If only one speller spells correctly in a round, a new one-word spelling round begins and the speller is given an opportunity to spell a word on the list (anticipated championship word). If the speller succeeds in correctly spelling the anticipated championship word in this one-word round, the speller is declared the champion.

  • VERY IMPORTANTIf a speller misspells the anticipated championship word in a one-word round: A new spelling round begins with ALL the spellers who participated in the previous round. These spellers spell in their original order.

10) Appeals:

Provided that the appellant adheres to the Time and Manner Requirements specified herein, the judges will review appeals and render decisions on the following three grounds:

A. The speller correctly spelled the word but was eliminated for misspelling it:

Judges: Do the Zoom records or video indicate that the speller offered the correct letters in the correct order and never changed the order of letters, said the word before or after spelling, and indicated capitalization, hyphen, spaces or diacritical marks?

If yes, reinstate the speller - If no, deny the appeal.

B. The speller correctly spelled a homonym of the word in question.

Judges: Did the pronouncer provide a definition?

Refer to Rule 4. If no, reinstate the speller. If yes, deny the appeal.

C. The speller correctly spelled an alternate spelling of the word as listed in the resource.

(1) whose pronunciation is identical to the word in question,

(2) whose definition is identical to the word in question, and

(3) that is clearly identified as a standard variant of the word in question.

Judges: Check the Grand Larousse Illustré 2021 online. If all three criteria are met, reinstate the speller. If fewer than three criteria are met, deny the appeal.