by Marie-Eve Racette
It began as a quick and dirty activity to start the year. Then it snowballed.
The Concordia University Translation Students' Association (CUTA) had planned on organizing a concours de dictée to test the mettle of its members.
Then it added a spelling bee for the anglophone students in the Translation unit of the Études françaises Department. And then they decided to open it to everyone. Why limit yourself?
All Concordia students are cordially invited to participate in the CUTA spelling bee/concours de dictée, to take place on November 26. Dean of Students Don Boisvert has accepted our invitation to participate. "Aren't you afraid?" I asked. "No, I won a spelling bee when I was in university," he replied. (CUTA hopes that the students will put Dean Boisvert in his place.)
There are other incentives to participate. It's free; there are many prizes to be won (including cash), and a bevy of bigwigs to meet.
There are about 350 students in the Translation program. CUTA, which has about 50 active members, has succeeded in attracting some attention. TV5, the French television channel, has agreed to sponsor the event, donating prizes and supplying jurors; so is the Office de la Langue Française.
"We would like this to become an annual event," said CUTA president Marie Hébert. "We're off to a great start. We have mountains of donated prizes, plus the cash prizes we are supplying out of our budget.
"We're very excited about the interest this event has raised among faculty. Several professors have already volunteered to correct the papers [for the concours de dictée] and others have agreed to free up their students upon request to allow them to participate in the spelling bee. Even though this is our first try at this, we expect a fairly good turnout."
The spelling bee/concours de dictée will be held as two separate events, due to the natures of English and French. The difficulty of French lies mainly in its grammar: complex past-participle rules, tricky homonyms, strict subject-verb and noun-adjective agreement are but a few of the shoals to watch out for.
It is therefore more challenging to write a continuous text made up of whole complex sentences in order to test logical and analytical thinking. The text that will be used in the CUTA concours de dictée was composed especially for this event by Aimé Avolonto, a professor of translation history at Concordia.
As for English, the main difficulty lies in its spelling. Some letters are not pronounced at all (night, knife), and some are pronounced at variance with their spelling (women). Words with similar spelling may be pronounced differently (vow, tow), while identical words may be pronounced differently depending on their meaning (bow as a verb, and bow as a noun). It is so difficult to compose a text that is orthographically challenging while being coherent at the same time that the structure of the spelling bee, composed of unrelated trick words, is most often chosen.
The spelling bee/concours de dictée will take place on Thursday, November 26, between 10 a.m. and noon on the SGW
campus. To sign up, please drop by the Études françaises office (LB-631-10) to fill out a form, or send an e-mail message to:
Marie-Eve Racette is vice-president of CUTA, the Translation Students Association