Good or bad memories, fun or disguised torture: dictation has brought young and old together since the 19th century. Having become a French specialty, it spread to schools in 1830. At the time, it had to teach students the subtleties of the language but also fight against the use of patois in playgrounds.

Dictation has long been one of the pillars of education. Between 1866 and 1989, 5 errors in the dictation test are eliminatory when obtaining the Certificate of Studies. Less and less practiced, its scarcity is associated with the drop in the spelling level of schoolchildren. A measure published on January 12, 2023 by the government provides for its return in force: from September 2023, dictation will be daily in CM1 and CM2 classes. So to train you, we offer you the dictation of Mérimée, reputed to be the hardest in the French language.

In 1857, at the court of Emperor Napoleon III, dictation was one of the favorite pastimes of nobles and intellectuals. So much so that Empress Eugénie would have asked Prosper Mérimée, academician and inspector general of historical monuments, to write the most difficult dictation in the world.

History will remember that the empress, of Spanish origin, committed 62 faults, the writer Alexandre Dumas 24 and the emperor 75. The record would be held by the diplomat Richard Klemens von Metternich, ambassador of Austria, with a total of 3 faults. Can you break this record? How many mistakes will you make? To test your knowledge and that of your friends, find the full text, published by Léo Claretie in 1900, in our slideshow below.