Woman who learned English from Jeopardy! becomes contestant

Kristyna Ng with Jeopardy! host Alex TrebekImage copyright

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Kristyna Ng with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek

A woman who learned English as a child by watching Jeopardy! has fulfilled her dream by becoming a contestant on the game show.

Kristyna Ng, who moved to Canada from China when she was eight, appeared on the game show some 30 years later.

Although she came in second place, she said: “I feel like I won the lottery just by being on the show.”

She has watched the programme nearly every day since she was a little girl, and it was one of the things she and her husband initially bonded over.

“Jeopardy! has been the soundtrack of my life,” she told the BBC.

Ms Ng did well on Tuesday’s episode, trailing front-runner Danyelle Long-Hyland by just $600 (£460) before going into the Final Jeopardy, where contestants place bets on whether they get the correct answer.

She said she began watching the show when she was a child and had just moved to Canada with her family. She did not speak a word of English, and watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, which played back-to-back every weekday, helped her figure out some of the language’s trickier quirks, like the difference between minute (a measure of time) and minute (very small).

She said Jeopardy! was especially helpful, because it helped her learn things about a wide variety of subjects, from music to sports.

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“It helps you build a stronger vocabulary, but it also helped me build a lot of cultural contexts and general knowledge to be not only a fully participating Canadian citizen, but also a global citizen,” she said.

She has since gone on to earn her Master’s degree in public administration, and now works for the city of Calgary.

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Kristyna Ng

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Kristyna Ng taken shortly after she moved to Canada

She was initially encouraged to try out for the show by a friend she and her husband had made while playing trivia on board a cruise ship.

She got a little help on this week’s episode from her friend’s daughter, who bought her a Jeopardy! quiz book for good luck. One of the questions in the book was “What is a spinnaker?”, and that question popped up during the show.

The answer: A sail.

But one mispronunciation cost her big. A clue asked for the name of former Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa. She was close, but confused the consonants in the name, saying “Lawensa” instead.

Her answer was initially accepted, but the judges later reversed that decision, which cost her $4,000.

On the Final Jeopardy, Ms Ng guessed correctly, but her bet was too conservative to overtake the show’s winner, Ms Long-Hyland.

The clue: After statesman and banker Robert Morris turned down a job offer from George Washington, this man took the job.

The answer: Alexander Hamilton

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Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek

Ms Ng’s appearance on the show was especially meaningful because of host Alex Trebek, she said. Mr Trebek, 78, has been hosting the popular game show since 1984, and recently revealed he was battling stage four pancreatic cancer.

In a statement uploaded to the Jeopardy! YouTube channel, he said that “normally the prognosis for [his cancer] is not very encouraging”.

“But I’m going to fight this. And I’m going to keep working, and with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

Ms Ng said he was “a genuine, humble and courageous” person. Between takes, he chatted with the audience about everything from his cancer treatment to his leaf-blower.

“I could not have had a better experience, to be standing on the same stage of the great Alex Trebek,” she said.