Sign up now for Flanders’ big, outrageously popular spelling test
Think your Dutch is pretty good? Find out for sure at De Schrijfwijzen, taking place in more than 100 libraries across Flanders and Brussels
Writing among the books
Formerly known as Het Groot Dictee (The Big Dictation), this annual event is beloved across Dutch-speaking Belgium. Thousands of people, including academics, politicians and assorted celebrities, take to more than 100 libraries to test their spelling skills.
While someone – again, often a celebrity – dictates lovingly prepared paragraphs that tell a story, you simply write. Except, naturally, it isn’t really simple.
Words and phrases pop up that stump native Dutch speakers. How would you, for instance, write “the Harry Potter chronicles” in Dutch? Harry Potterkronieken, Harry Potter-kronieken or Harry-Potter-kronieken? As you might imagine, the heated debate that follows the exercise is way more fun than the dictation itself.
There’s more than dictation, though. The first round is dedicated to dictation. This is often delivered by bekende Vlamingen, or well-known Flemings. In Mechelen, VRT meteorologist Frank Deboosere will read the text in his immediately recognisable voice, for instance.
The second round is multiple-choice. Participants choose from three options for the spelling of a word or phrase. You get a letter for each correct answer, and these letters spell a word. The more right answers you get, the easier it is to guess the word.
Then there’s the third round – a good, old fashioned spelling bee. While your written mistakes from the dictation remain fairly private, this brings them all out into the open!
Will you make it to the final?
Finally, the top 200 performers across all 105 libraries will come together on 18 January at the KBR library in Brussels. The winner of this final test will be a regional hero and appear on the front page of all the newspapers the following day.
Should all of this sound slightly intimidating, you can also take part in the online version. Just sign on at De Standaard on 6 December. This digital option directly follows the real thing.
Be warned, however: Should you be among the best of either the online or the in-person Schrijfwijzen participants, you will have to attend the final on 18 January. Wouldn’t it be something if an expat won this event?
Registration for either version, by the way, is free. But if you want a place in a library near you, sign up right away. Do the “warm-ups” on the website to see what you’re getting yourself into.