Total Dictation Cultural Action Conference at NSU

More than 300 organizers and experts of the Total Dictation international cultural action came to Novosibirsk to participate in the VI International Scientific and Practical Conference "Dynamic Processes in Modern Russian". Over three days, experts discussed current issues related to Russian spelling and punctuation. Novosibirsk State University teachers held master classes and training games on how to organize evaluation of dictations. One of the key events at the conference was the unveiling of the city chosen to be the capital of Total Dictation 2018.

The conference hosted by Novosibirsk State University brought together famous Russian philologists, representatives of the Orthographic Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences, members of the RF President’s Russian Language Council, members of the RF Government Council on Russian language, Total Dictation organizers, and representatives of cities who have applied to be the capital this year. NSU Rector Mikhail Fedoruk, who has been a participant in the action every year, greeted the guests and promised that this year he will once again be taking the dictation.

Natalia Koshkareva, Expert Council member and Head of the Department of General and Russian Linguistics at the NSU Humanities Institute, talked about the benefits of the Total Dictation conference for the philological community and science overall,

We are certain that the Total Dictation Conference is an unprecedented event because it ensures the inclusion of a wide variety of specialists in the discussion of issues concerning the codification of the literary language. Participants in these discussions include people who will convey information about the established norms to the Russian Federation regions.

After the plenary session, the conference participants took a practice version of the Total Dictation. Koshkareva described the text,

We have had a record making text where in one place, in one sentence there were 56 variations for how to place the punctuation marks. In the conference practice dictation up to 300 variations were possible. The texts are so complex, so multifaceted, the author's idea is so non-trivial that it can be interpreted in many ways. And right in front of us were the people who evaluate the dictation and decide what each problem is worth and how to assess a specific variation.

Koshkareva continued,

Variations in the formulation of punctuation marks that the evaluators see in a large number of dictations, provide an opportunity to revise the generally accepted norms. The Total Dictation experts are faced with the task of developing recommendations that the Spelling Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences can take into account when working on spelling directories and dictionaries This will improve the rules that are included in Russian language school courses. NSU teachers conduct master classes and teaching games to help Total Dictation evaluators cope with the variations in punctuation.

Total Dictation Head Olga Rebkovets explained,

This was a pivotal year for the Total Dictation organizers. As soon as we completed the Total Dictation 2017, we gathered the Expert Council for a strategic session which was held in Vladivostok. We agreed on the main elements for the project this year. The key activity this year is the competition for the Total Dictation capital. A significant part of this competition has already taken place with the 5 finalists selected out of the 16 cities that applied here at the conference.

For the first time NSU and Novosibirsk will give the status of Total Dictation capital to one of the five cities that were chose as finalists through open voting that took place on the project's website. The final decision will be made by a jury chaired by NSU Rector Mikhail Fedoruk. The city finalists are Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Tallinn, Tyumen and Krasnoyarsk. On January 27 the jury will select the site for the Total Dictation capitol that will host text author Guzel Yakhina.

On April 14 the text of the dictation will be read by its author Guzel Yakhina in the city that is selected to be capitol. The action will be coordinated by the Total Dictation Expert Council in Novosibirsk, the core of which is currently the Department of General and Russian Linguistics at the NSU Humanities Institute. During the dictation, the Expert Council will coordinate the work of the evaluators at all venues. Novosibirsk experts also have to double check the work of participants with the highest scores, or step in if there are controversial situations or evaluators who did not sufficiently check the work.

Total Dictation is an annual educational action inviting anyone interested to participate in a voluntary dictation. The purpose of the action is to provide everyone with an opportunity to test their knowledge of the Russian language and to stimulate interest in increasing literacy. NSU is an expert center and the birthplace of the Total Dictation. The official organizer is the "Total Dictation" fund for the support of language culture for citizens. In 2017, 200,000 people in 866 cities and 71 countries took part in the action. According to the forecasts of the organizers of The Total Dictation organizers predict that at least 250,000 people will take part in 2018.