Not to be outdone by lavish American-style spelling contests, Paris’ most famous Champs-Elysees was transformed into an outdoor “dictation” spelling contest on Sunday, drawing thousands of children. France’s smartest nerds compete against each other.
Revealing a very French love affair verbally, more than 50,000 people signed up for the event, the first in the world in which hopefuls try to faithfully and error-free transcribe a text read to them.
More than 5,000 applicants aged 10-90 were selected to participate in three sessions led by novelist Rachid Santaki.
With 1,779 tables laid out on Paris’ most famous avenue during each session, the organizers managed to break the world record for the spelling contest.
In the first round, an excerpt from the famous French writer Alphonse Daudet’s La Mule du Pape was read by journalist Augustin Trapenard, of Libraries Without Borders.
Silence fell as the first session began, but for 10-year-old Samson, the dictation was “too fast”. He gave up.
In his senior year of elementary school, the best student Antoine attended with his father and despite being an excellent student, he struggled to fill out his page.
“It’s impossible! Dictation is for adults,” he said.
His father, Adrien Blind, 42, was equally relieved when the session ended, saying he was “in a state of stress and anxiety”.
But 65-year-old retiree Touria Zerhouni is more optimistic.
“I only made two mistakes! I thought it would be much harder,” she said.
The competition goes beyond the French classics, with one sports-themed round read by rugby player Pierre Rabadan and another with a contemporary flavor read by writer and journalist Katherine Pancol.
Marc-Antoine Jamet, chair of the Champs-Elysees Committee that organized the dictation in 2016, says the event goes beyond dictation.
“Dictionary helps us live together. It’s unified,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)