- "Dictée" redirects here. For the book by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, see Dictee.
Dictation is the transcription of spoken text: one person who is "dictating" speaks and another who is "taking dictation" writes down the words as they are spoken. Among speakers of several languages, dictation is used as a test of language skill, similar to spelling bees in the English-speaking world. Secondary to teaching language skills, the exercise of dictation has also been used to introduce students to literary works, and to instill morals.
The first known use of the word was in 1581. It derives from Latin, dictare (to assert).
Dictation in Different Languages
For speakers of French, la dictée is a school exercise that aims at testing the mastery of orthography and grammar. Since many features of French grammar are distinguished in writing but not in speech, this can be a challenging task.
Certain dictées became famous for their difficulty or their interest, like those of Prosper Mérimée and Bernard Pivot. In several countries of the world (including Switzerland, France, Belgium, Poland, and Canada), the dictations are the subject of structured championships, similar to English spelling bees.
In South Korea, badasseugi (Hangul: 받아쓰기) is a school exercise for children in the lower grades of elementary schools. The Korean language is written using Hangul, which is basically a phonemic alphabet; however, Hangul writing is also morphophonemic, so morphological knowledge (in addition to familiarity with Hangul) is necessary for correct dictation. Also, phonological rules such as assimilation, palatalization, and deletion can cause pronunciation to be different from what the written form may suggest. Badasseugi may take form of a word, a phrase, or a sentence, and is similar to spelling tests.
Dictation in Chinese (Chinese: 听写 Pinyin: tīng xiě, literally means listen and write) is a vital part of Chinese primary school education curriculum. Chinese characters are unique because a single syllable can have different corresponding characters. Since Chinese dictation is usually done in phrases (i.e. words are made up of more than one characters), this can help the person taking dictation to determine the proper character through phrases. Dictation also increases students' ability to write characters properly.