This weekend, I took part in a quintessentially French way of spending a fun Saturday afternoon. As part of the Language Week, a local association had organized a Grand Dictation in order to promote language awareness among schoolchildren and adults. In the morning, the schoolkids had their dictation, and in the afternoon, it was the adults' turn.
150 people sat in the University Centre's amphitheatre - there's only one university in Mayotte, which covers French, law, maths and sport - and listened to a dictation written by a retired French teacher who had been working in Mayotte. It was read by a lecturer from the university, and simultaneously broadcast on the radio for those who wished to do the dictation at home, in the manner of Bernard Pivot's dictations which are televised for that same purpose. They then wrote it down as carefully as possible over the following hour. It wasn't a difficult text, but it was extremely long and it comprised a good few words that the contestants didn't know. Some were competing to see if they could do it, others were very proud of their level of French and wanted to check that, and everybody wanted to win the airplane tickets to Madagascar that were on offer.
I was roped in to mark the dictation that afternoon. (Got there an hour late, actually, as the gate to my block of flats had decided not to bother opening that afternoon, effectively blocking all vehicle entries and exits... well, at least I met a few neighbours!) Ten of us had a short meeting where we discussed how many points to take off for this mistake or that mistake, realized the correction text had a mistake in it and started off by correcting the correction text. We were then given something to eat and went into the dictation room to distract the participants by taking photos. A couple of French teachers from my school actually did the dictation, then came backstage to mark it with us.
The best paper had four mistakes (out of about five pages' worth of text), the worst had 118 (and that's being lenient). My favourite mistake actually cropped up in two different papers. The text had the words "le frère d'Honoré de Balzac" (Honoré de Balzac's brother) in it, and the person had written "le frère demeuré de Balzak" (Balzak's retarded brother). We had a good giggle at that one.
This paper just says: "Sorry. Yours sincerely."
We even got a newspaper article: http://lejournaldemayotte.com/une/grande-dictee-de-mayotte-les-fleurs-des-quisqualiers-egarent-les-candidats/