Apologies for not updating recently, but I’m wading through my thesis, cutting out bits and – more importantly – writing bits for it. I also have over 100 hours of recordings and interviews that I probably should have transcribed as soon as I got back from wherever I went to talk to people. I don’t need all of the material that I’ve gathered (I’m sitting on much less than 100 hours of pertinent data that’s hiding in sentences and behind loud music and I only need transcribe the lines that I need. But first I need to find it all).
I had to write out an interview (with a 30-something year-old man) last year for class. It was 10 minutes long and comparatively easy to transcribe. These interviews are so much more difficult. Especially as I had the wise idea of bribing people to take part in said interviews with chocolate. Most of my recordings consist of groups of hyper-active 19 year-olds giggling and interrupting each other in my 3rd language. I mean, I knew the facts about average spoken WPMs (thanks, Gilmore Girls) but I’ve never felt just how fast around 190 WPM is.
What makes it worse is that transcribing is more than just writing down the words that people say. It’s basically reproducing every sound that comes out of the person’s mouth. If they make a strange, R2D2 noise, you have to mention the number of high-pitched whistles and beeps that they’ve emitted. If a person hesitates, you have to include it in the text. Beautiful example forth-coming:
If they have a stutter= =or stumble over a word you have to wr/ to wr/ (2.6) to write it out the way it happened, hh baby.
One interviewee spoke exclusively in my 4th language, which is very beautiful to listen to, but the thought of transcribing it makes me break out into a cold sweat and grab my IPA sheet. Another has a penchant for throwing Greek words into the mix. He was fun to talk to and interview, but I’m scared about screwing up the transcribing part and not doing his wealth of knowledge justice.
At the same time, it’s a brilliant way of analysing the way in which people speak. Reading some transcriptions makes me feel as though I’m reading a character sheet or page from a script. Listening to a group conversation is a good way of analysing the way that people interact with each other in certain situations.
There are also enlightening moments when people of different cultures interact. For example, New Yorkers (and North Americans) tend to have shorter pauses between one speaker saying something and another replying. Compare that to a conversation between Vietnamese people and the pauses between when one person finishes speaking and another starts and the results are interesting.
I love ethnography.
Has anyone noticed things like that when they’ve heard people from different places conversing amongst themselves? Feel free to leave general ethnography-related comments. 🙂
And now, back to transcription… go and check out http://eljeejavier.com/2012/03/01/new-challenge-15-minutes-of-transcription-for-30-days/ who