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A massive dictation event takes over the iconic Champs-Élysées in Paris

A massive dictation event takes place on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.
Alain Jocard
/
AFP via Getty Images
A massive dictation event takes place on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.

Updated June 6, 2023 at 5:21 PM ET

The iconic Champs-Élysées in Paris was taken over by writers on Sunday in perhaps the world's largest-ever dictation event.

Instead of car traffic, the famed boulevard was covered by some 1,779 desks organized into rows for the more than 5,000 applicants chosen to participate in the exercise, the AFP reported.

The dictation was run by novelist Rachid Santaki, who began an initiative in 2013 called La Dictée Geante — or the Giant Dictation — to improve literacy across France.

Spellers equipped with pen and paper attempted to transcribe text excerpts read aloud over three rounds.
Alain Jocard / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
Spellers equipped with pen and paper attempted to transcribe text excerpts read aloud over three rounds.

"It's about bringing people together, having fun around spelling and the French language," Santaki told RFI in 2018. "I often talk about the pleasure of reading, of writing, and that means having fun, we take the drama out of it, turn the experience upside down."

On Sunday, applicants ranging in age from 10 to 90 and equipped with a pen and paper attempted over three rounds to transcribe excerpts of text read aloud by three different people: Libraries Without Borders journalist Augustin Trapenard, writer Katherine Pancol and rugby player Pierre Rabadan.

Organizers said the Paris event may have been the world's largest-ever dictation.
Alain Jocard / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
Organizers said the Paris event may have been the world's largest-ever dictation.

"It was impossible! The dictation was for adults," said primary school student Antoine, according to AFP. "I only made two mistakes!" retiree Touria Zerhouni, 65, told the outlet. "I expected it to be much harder."

Guinness World Records, which sent a representative to the event, confirmed that it set the record for the most people taking dictation simultaneously.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez