British Columbia

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

A 9-year-old Surrey girl is heading to the Canadian Spelling Bee Championships later this month, just two years after immigrating to Canada and perfecting her English.

'My goals are actually coming true,' says the 9-year-old spelling champ

Harbin Kaur, 9, is pictured at her school in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday. She will compete in a national online spelling bee at the end of November. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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.

Parents Harkuljit Singh and Sonia Kaur are proud of their nine-year-old daughter Harbin Kaur, who is heading to the national spelling bee. (CBC)

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. 

Harbin Kaur attends the Khalsa School, Newtown campus, in Surrey. (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.

With files from Deb Goble