WASHINGTON - Not every 11-year-old would consider "tchotchke" an easy word to spell.
But Aditya Mishra, of Lincoln, can rattle it off without missing a beat - even if he isn't quite sure what it means. He just knows that it was one of a long list of words he had to spell correctly to win the California Central Valley Spelling Bee in March.
This week the soft-spoken sixth-grader from Excelsior Elementary School in Roseville is representing Sacramento at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which kicked off Tuesday in Washington.
"I'm excited and I'm nervous, because I put a lot of time into studying," Aditya said in an interview in Washington before the start of the national bee. "I'm pretty nervous because it'll be my first time on TV."
After completing a computerized vocabulary test Tuesday, Aditya and his 280 competitors will move on to the preliminaries Wednesday in hopes of making it to the final round Thursday.
The 86th annual National Spelling Bee isn't exactly Aditya's first time at the rodeo. He cheered on his older sister, Anvita, when she came in ninth in the national contest three years ago.
As Aditya prepared for his turn at the podium, Anvita has been one of his biggest supporters, helping him practice (sometimes two hours a day) and quizzing him with words she finds in the dictionary and online.
"I was pretty good at spelling when I was young, but I think it came from my sister," Aditya said. "She did spelling bees before me, so I wanted to try it out and it turned out I was pretty good at it."
Anvita, 16, said it's "nerve-wracking" seeing her brother compete.
"It's a lot of fun. The Scripps National Spelling Bee puts up a pretty impressive event," she said. "But besides that, the actual spelling bee? It's stressful, but it's a good kind of stress."
Rounding out Aditya's entourage are his father, Anil, a software engineer, and his mother, Anju, a state government analyst.
The couple, with a young Anvita, came to the United States from India more than 13 years ago, and both Aditya and his sister speak fluent Hindi. He said knowing a second language - as about half of this year's spellers do - gives him a leg up in the competition.
Anil Mishra said seeing a second child making it to the final rounds of the spelling bee is "beautiful." He said many parents have a "hard expectation" for their kids to succeed, especially when a sibling has already competed, but that he and his wife aren't putting unnecessary pressure on Aditya or his sister.
"We encourage them," the father said. "We don't force them, but we encourage them. We just came here to have some good time."
For his part, Aditya appeared to be more concerned with a trip to the Spy Museum (if he does well enough, his mom said) than with winning the National Spelling Bee. It is his first year, but he said it may not be his last.
"If I do pretty well and, like, if I want to do better," he said, "I will continue."