Transcription Reflection

Before I began the transcribing assignment I figured it would be easy because: 1) I had done transcribing work before; 2) I can type fast, and 3) I assumed that transcribing was just typing word for word.  These beliefs about transcribing mostly stem from when I worked as legal secretary for a short time a few years ago. The attorney I worked for was a successful older attorney who relied almost completely on transcription to correspond with clients, write emails, make telephone calls and so forth. However, he also provided a transcription device that made the whole process a lot less painful. This device he used was connected to a foot pedal that would slow down or speed up, stop or play whatever had been recorded.  Also, his thoughts were always organized and flowed, without any back and forth conversation to confuse the issues.

So, I was actually amazed at how hard the process was in comparison to my previous experience.  The transcription device truly made a difference. First,  a generic laptop with media player does not have any special features to aid in this assignment—at least that I could find.  In addition, understanding a fluid conversation and how to symbolize vague utterances was not something I anticipated.  Basically, I was spoiled by my experience as a legal secretary where the attorney used precise words with which I was also familiar.

Doing the transcribing also revealed to me the difficulty of interpreting conversations.  Tone is virtually impossible to convey in a meaningful way, and there are so many vague words (or utterances) that accompany a conversation.  To me, these utterances and fillers are important because they could convey meaning, such as uncertainty. When someone says “um” they could be deciding what to say or what not to say. Thus, I think that it is safer to keep the “ums” and pauses in because it takes my interpretation out.

To sum things up, like all beginnings, I believe transcribing will get easier with practice.  There is definitely an art to understanding conversations and symbolizing them as accurately as possible. For now, that means some frustration with the process as I figure things out.

1 Response to “Transcription Reflection”


  1. 1 dcpratt March 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Good. In addition to the little words and utterances that fill conversation, it might be worth thinking about punctuation. How should we represent, for instance, the pace of an interviewee’s speech? What’s the difference in transcription between, say, a period and a semicolon? Does it matter enough to worry about it?

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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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