Artek children negotiate the labyrinth of commas, hyphens and dots during the Total Dictation

This year, Artek has become the official and the largest site of the Total Dictation educational event in Crimea. Children from 12 countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Turkey, Finland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Sweden, Ireland, Belarus and Croatia – tested their literacy skills together with children from Greater Yalta, their teachers, camp counselors, other employees and veterans of the international children’s center. Nearly 3,500 children and adults gathered at the Artek Arena on April 14 to take dictation.

Artek Director Alexei Kasprzhak praised the Total Dictation as a fashionable event that is stimulating interest in the Russian language. “We are doing our best to encourage a trend for literacy to overcome the lax attitude toward the language. Artek and the Total Dictation are setting a trend for correct Russian, and we expect this union to produce a powerful cumulative effect. Also, promoting the Russian language is a priority at the international children’s center. It is not only children who speak Russian at Artek. Russian language teachers from many countries come to Artek every year, with support from the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute. The interest in Russian is huge. Our language is our geopolitical advantage,” Kasprzhak said.

Russian writer Guzel Yakhina prepared this year’s text. She made three variants of the dictation for three time zones, titled Morning, Day and Evening. Guzel Yakhina said the text, about one day in the life of a German language teacher, was far from simple.

This view was shared by film and theater actor Alexander Samoilenko, who was invited to read out the dictation at Artek. “I love this writer and her books. But the text was rather difficult for children. In fact, I got the knack of reading the dictation only by the end of the event. I never did this before. It was cool,” Alexander Samoilenko said.

He explained that now he understands what it means to be a Russian language teacher: “You must above all love this profession and especially the children. I am grateful to the Artek authorities for inviting me to do this.” He added that it was an opportunity to test his own literacy: “I used to have an A in Russian, but you tend to forget things and start using colloquialisms more than literary words. So, today I also put myself to the test.”

The children who took part in the event described the dictation as “a labyrinth of commas, hyphens and dots.”

“I hope I put all the commas in the right places,” said Aiza Begaliyeva from Dagestan. “I encountered some problems. I fear I had several words and commas wrong. It was very important for me to take part in this large-scale event. Also, it is very important that we wrote the dictation together with the entire country, including cosmonauts and scientists. Russian is not my native language, but I like it very much. Russian is a very rich language. I think it is the most beautiful language in the world.”

Avgustina Ivashkina from the Moscow Region said she did well at the dictation only thanks to the person who read it out: “Alexander Samoilenko is a charismatic person. He could read out any text, but we would have liked to have a simpler text.  When you take dictation at school, the atmosphere is usually very tense. But here it was nice and easy. I believe I will get a B for my dictation. Children at Artek were lucky to be able to take part in this event and, for that matter, to be at Artek.”

“As I took dictation, I saw certain gaps in my knowledge. I must review some of the themes to keep up standards,” said Alexander Malkin from Samara. “Alexander Samoilenko was an ideal teacher because of his delivery. You could tell right away that he is a theatre actor. He can hold the attention of the audience, and he also joked, which is why taking this dictation was much more interesting than at school.”

Many children at Artek agree that Total Dictation is a very important event “designed to bring together those around the world who love the Russian language.” “The Russian language is changing and developing. And we must move along, developing our knowledge,” they said.

The 15th Total Dictation educational event was held in 76 countries on April 14. Anyone could test their knowledge of the Russian language by taking dictation at over 3,000 special sites in 1,021 cities. The main mission of the Total Dictation is to unite people, countries, languages and cultures, say the event organizers from the Total Dictation Foundation in Novosibirsk.