Total Dictation-2018 at ITMO University

This Saturday, April 14, ITMO University hosted the 15th annual Total Dictation, a voluntary test in the Russian language. This year participants from more than 1000 cities around the world took part in the initiative. Some participated in the Dictation in the mountains of Northern Caucasus, or even in space. What makes Total Dictation truly special is that many renowned actors, musicians, writers and even robots take part in it as “readers”. At ITMO University, this year’s Total Dictation was hosted by Marina Kacuba, a Russian poet, and Ernesto Zatknites, a Russian rapper.

Total Dictation is a social project that aims to demonstrate the importance of being literate and convince people that though difficult, learning Russian is a very interesting and rewarding experience.

The project is coordinated by the Total Dictation Fund in Novosibirsk. Although it started as a local project by the students of Novosibirsk State University, over the past 14 years it has become an international initiative. In 2018, the event was organized for the first time in Costa Rica, Panama, Syria, Qatar, and Hungary, as well as in the mountains of Northern Caucasus, and, for the second time, on the International Space Station.

The text for the dictation is always written by a famous writer. This year, it was written by Guzel Yakhina. Her debut novel Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes won her the Big Book literary prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award.

As usual, the text was divided into three parts for different time zones. Three passages, called “Morning”, “Day”, and “Evening” describe one day in the life of a teacher of German literature.     

The author read the text in Vladivostok, while Marina Kaсuba, a Russian poet, and Ernesto Zatknites, a Russian rapper, read the text in St. Petersburg, at ITMO University.

“I had been thinking about participating in Total Dictation for a while. And this year it worked out well. The thing is, I recently tried my hand at recording a story by Vladimir Sorokin in an audiobook format and received many positive reviews. I took it as a good sign and decided to give it a try and take part in Total Dictation as a reader”, shared Ernesto Zatknites.

Marina Kaсuba and Ernesto Zatknites
Marina Kaсuba and Ernesto Zatknites

Marina Kaсuba added that “Total Dictation” is a great opportunity to learn more about contemporary Russian literature and think about literacy.

“Unfortunately, I have never taken this test myself. To be honest, I often make mistakes when in a hurry, and I’m ashamed of it”, says Ms. Kacuba, “So I think of this project as a reminder that literacy is important. Social media has changed dramatically the way people write, and unless you’re a student in Humanities or a writer, it is unlikely that you often have a chance to practice your writing skills; taking a test at least once a year seems like a good idea”.

229 people took the test at ITMO University, and so did 9,000 other citizens of St. Petersburg. ITMO.NEWS asked the participants some questions about the test.

Elena Klimenkova, engineer

Elena Klimenkova
Elena Klimenkova

I took the test for the first time. I came here, first of all, to support my son. I work as an engineer and don't know anything about linguistics, but I believe that everyone should think about their literacy.

Anastasia Zakharova, translator (English)

I came here with my daughter. I took this test for the first time two years ago, and it feels like this time it was easier. Last time I made two punctuation mistakes. Hope this time the result will be better.

Konstantin Slepov, student at the Department of Geoinformation Systems at ITMO University

Konstantin Slepov
Konstantin Slepov

It was my second time taking this test, and I can say that this year the text was much easier.

I’m currently studying at ITMO university at the Department of Geoinformation Systems. When I learned that this year’s text is written by Guzel Yakhina, I immediately decided to take part in this project.

Zoya Safonova, historian

Zoya Safonova
Zoya Safonova

I had known for a long time about this project and wanted to take part in it, but something always went wrong, until in 2015 I finally took the test for the first time and since then I take it every year and attend preliminary classes, too. This year, I attended preliminary classes at ITMO University.

I'm not a philologist but I really love the Russian language and consider myself rather literate, but I've never gotten the highest score on my test. Last year, I was really close to it, but I did not fully understand the context and made an unfortunate mistake. I hope this time I’ll succeed.

The results will be posted in late April on your personal page at The award ceremony will take place on May 4 at the Saint Petersburg Court Chapel.

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