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On the dictation (La dictée)

Unknown to most non-French students, the dictation (la dictée) is one of the most dreaded moment in France’s classroom. The teacher (le maître ou la maîtresse) stands up and asks the children to open their notebook. She takes her book, opens it to a marked page, and starts pacing the room. She reads slowly for ten minutes, grossly accentuating syllables, insisting on some doubled consonants, and clearly indicating the punctuation:

“… il les perdait toutes de la même façon… deux points… Elllles casssaient leur corde… virgule… s’en allllait dans la montagne…” (Excerpt from La chèvre de M. Seguin)

Then she asks all students to put down their pen and starts collecting the transcriptions. In the evening, she annotates  each notebook with a red pen and for each mistake she finds, she removes points from a starting credit of 20 points. A full point deduction for an agreement, half-a-point for punctuation…The final number is the grade for the student.

The texts she reads are usually taken from classics, and it takes some practice to reach the no-mistake (zéro faute) status.

The dictation practice is so engrained in the French culture that it has become a televised national competition where adults and children can compare their skills: La dictée de Pivot

For those who really want to test their French, here is one proposed by Merimee. Few can say they achieved the perfect score: Dictée de Mérimée

Amicalement vôtre

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