French word of the week: fin d’année scolaire (15/6/2023)

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So I’ve been a bit missing-in-action lately. I apologize, it is the fin d’année scolaire (end of the school year) here in France and things are a bit…hectic.

Beyond all the taxes and paperwork (who said running your own business was fun?), we’ve been dashing around getting year-end teacher gifts, multiple school fieldtrips, kermesses (school fairs), September activity planning, and at least 1 kid birthday party per weekend.

(Yes, it is all my kids’ fault. It is fine, they don’t read this newsletter. FYI to the other parents out there, if you have kids with summer birthdays, I beg you to just book a family trip to Disneyland, rather than trying to shove in yet another birthday party before the end of the school year.)

In keeping with our general lack of school spirit for the end of the année scolaire, this was also the week of the BAC philosophy exams for high school graduating kids. I don’t have high-school-age kids, but I do like reading the questions just cause I have no clue how I would answer them. And I’m not the only one, French newspapers annually publish the questions and a sample “good” answer.

This year the essay was a choice between:

  • Topic 1: “Is happiness a matter of reason?”
  • Topic 2: “Wanting peace, is it wanting justice?”

Over 500,000 students across France tackled this Bac philo exam this past Wednesday. If you are inspired, you too can write a 3000 word essay one of these topics.

If it is too much for you, you could have instead joined the Grande Dictée des Champs-Élysées! Yes, this past June 4th, the young and old signed up to for that “back to school” feeling with the “Grand dictation”.

North Americans have spelling bees, but the French have dictation, where they have to write down whatever paragraph the teacher is saying and get graded on their writing abilities.

Dictation is much harder than it sounds because in French, not all consonants and vowels are pronounced and there is are lot of “accords” with extra ‘e’s and ‘s’s added all over the place. Because it is so complicated, dictée competitions are often held in libraries and other community centers to give adults a dubious dose of nostalia.

So if you wanted to get a 2/20 in dictation, you too should have signed up for the annual Grand dictation that was on June 4th, held in the middle of that “most beautiful avenue in the world” the Champs-Elysées. (Traffic was stopped obviously.)

Over 5000 people signed up for this, and you can find the texts dictated here. I’m afraid I had to skip it myself, because obviously I was shepherding at another kid birthday party.

News from across France:

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A bientôt!


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