Putting Words into Words

This assignment proved a challenge for my historically poor hearing. My ears have been rather faulty my entire life, having persisted through near-constant ear infections and two rounds of surgery as a child to just not be deaf. Because of that, I think I’ve developed more of a reliance on non-verbal communication than most (which is already around 90%, right?) That was what I noticed most in my attempts to transcribe this oral history: how much communication I felt I was missing out on.

The interviewee was a Greek man who owned several restaurants in the Williamsburg area. His first name was Angelo, but I do not remember hearing his last. He spoke with a fairly strong accent, which proved challenging to depict in the text. Apart from my best guesses at some last names, I chose to not alter spellings of words to reflect his pronunciation of them. The history major in me wouldn’t allow it; historically, writing in dialect has been a standard way of depicting African-Americans and other people who don’t necessarily speak “properly” by an arbitrary definition as unintelligent and backwards. What I did stay true to, however, was his conjugation of verbs and omission of helping words, articles, and other such words. It seemed to be a good way to depict how he spoke in a non-offensive way.

Punctuation also became an issue in transcribing the clip. I realized while listening how people don’t typically speak in straightforward sentences. There are a great deal of pauses and stutters in conversations. I tried to depict those interruptions as much as possible, using dashes for more abrupt switches and ellipses for longer pauses.

Between the accent, the interruptions in speech, and the somewhat disjointed content within the clip itself, a fair amount of words and phrases were unintelligible. For those portions, I simply listed them as “unclear” within parentheses.

I’m eager to find out in class tomorrow if I did everything properly.

1 Response to “Putting Words into Words”


  1. 1 mal2013 February 17, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    It’s interesting that you note the importance of being able to hear properly in order to transcribe accurately. Be careful about to whom you’re attributing having distinctive accents and dialects, since just about everyone has an accent of some kind. Also be sure to include in your headnotes all information about the interventions you have taken to make your transcription intelligible (e.g. dashes, ellipses, etc.).

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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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