The Dictionary Awards [1, 2]

It’s just the pleasure of playing with words, yes, or learning new works, you see.

Ah, the pleasure of cultivating the French language which I have adored since my infancy.

To try my luck, to see if I cold win.

There are more than 500,000 adults and school children who try their luck each year. The challenge is to be recognized as the male or female champion of the French speaking world.

The principle of the dictation, you undoubtedly know, someone reads a text which you must try to re-write without spelling mistakes. This little game has been part of teaching in French for many generations.

In 1985, the test was changed into a national competition, the following year the competition became international. Today, under the name of the Dictionary Awards [1, 2]

The celebrated journalist Bernard Pivot is its master of ceremonies. At the regional finals which take place in Lyon at the beginning of November in the big natural history museum he delivers to us his keys to success.

Ah, so, yes, because it is a game, because dictation is a game. To the older people it’s their reminder of nostalgic memories of school, and then for the young, they have the desire to measure themselves, to learn the words, and so, it’s a kind of I would say that it’s almost a national game, almost a national sport. And then, it’s almost that. You know, the people are good humored and they know well for the most part they will not go to Paris for the final for they are not good enough but there are in amongst them, actually, those who are very good and who hope to beat the others, there.

Today, the champions win the special editions of the Larousse dictionary. But in past years it was all the future scholars who played, as M Pivot remembers.

It is a French tradition of the French teaching profession. The teaching profession has always practiced the learning of the language through French composition and dictation. And even it other times, in the certificate of study which corresponded to the bac in the Jules Ferry school, and so, when you made five faults in dictation you were recalled even if you had the best marks in mathematics. So at that time we gave spelling an important that happily it has no more, but we are trying all the same to bring it back with a type of spelling which is a sort of nation sport.

Happily? Does the master of the sport himself feel pleased at this lowering of the importance of the dictation in the school curriculum? Would he reject the academic spirit implicit in this game?

No, it’s not that – that is to say previously spelling was given a more important place. I would say, to make five errors and to have zero in the certificate of study… So today perhaps we don’t give it enough importance, that’s to say today, it is… I think that spelling is something, not essential, you can very well succeed in life with bad spelling, it’s not so much you have neglected something as you don’t neglect to wash, or eat or drink, it’s much better to have good spelling even if today it is no longer an essential cultural value.

And you, male and female readers of La Guinguette, do you have the level required to enter the game? Do you know that with more than one or two errors your chances of winning are lessened? Listen now to a little extract from the text which has been proposed for the regional finals. And watch out, each accent, each hyphen is important.

When you have written your text you can see it, to verify the spelling, by clicking here.

[1] Translator’s note – Dico is a common abbreviation in schools for dictionary

[2] Translator’s note – D’or often has the idea of an awards’ ceremony such as the Oscars

$Id: 2002_11_cul.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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