A Turtle’s Pace

I found my first foray into transcription challenging.  If it weren’t for Digital Editor it would have been a nightmarish process.  I found the speed controls helpful, but was aware that not all words translate well at slower speeds.  I discovered that with time I became a better listener and had to review less often as I typed.  There is also something to be said for establishing a familiarity with the patterns of speech used by the narrator and the interviewer.

I separated my transcription over several days and sat at short intervals to do the work.  I would review each of the prior transcriptions to check for accuracy; playing back the interview at normal speed and reading along with my draft.  I added the initals as a last step once I was satisfied with the accuracy of my transcription.

I enjoyed the process very well and was surprised at how much easier it became after multiple short sessions of listening.  I used noise cancelling headphones which helped me hear the speakers very clearly.

I decided to include most utterances and tried to capture the emotional affect of the speaker in the way he used his words.  For example, I noticed that Mr. Beck would repeat the first couple of words in his sentences if the subject was either difficult for him to share, or if he was particularly excited to make a point.  His Northern accent proved to be a little challenging on some parts of the interview, but I did not attempt to capture it in my transcription.  I did have to replay sections at various speeds and consider context in order the “translate” the words he used.

I wasn’t sure how to treat “side” conversations, like when Mrs. Beck spoke to her husband during his interview as she was leaving the house.  I decided to indicate that she spoke, but put a note that she was asking a question in the background and her voice/or his was softer than in the interview portion.

I think that Paula and Grace conducted the interview well overall, but I would have preferred fewer “ums” and “self interruptions”.  These interruptions occurred when they would start a question or statement and then interject another question or comment in the middle of making the first statement.  This happened when they were unsure of the question they were trying to formulate or information they were trying to convey to the narrator.

I hope I will be much improved in both my interviewing and listening skills by the time of my “real” interviews.  Thank goodness for the Digital Editor software – it made transcription much easier!

1 Response to “A Turtle’s Pace”


  1. 1 dcpratt March 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Great–I like especially that you note how you felt yourself becoming a better listener the further into the transcription you got. I’ve noticed the same thing myself when transcribing. It’s fascinating how this process makes you appreciate that listening really is a skill you can practice and improve!

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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