Transcription FAQ


1. Is it necessary to write words like uh... um...(I'm using English sounds so you can understand). You can see a lot of éh (which would be uh... or um...) in the text I send you.

This doesn’t have to be literal by any means. The idea is not to have a literal record of what they are saying, but to have something that we can use as the basis for solid examples and quotes. It’s also to help people (at first our volunteers, but we might later post the interviews to our website) gain a better appreciation of life in the communities.

2. What about the "né" and other words that don't really add to the meaning? Should I write it too?

They say this A LOT. Go ahead and write it down, but you don’t need to put in every one since people use it like we use “um”. A few indicate the real character of the speaker, but after a while it’s just distracting. Use your judgment since it’s not that critical either way.

3. What about stammering? In the very first sentence, I transcribed "Éh, dona dona Palmira, qual é o seu nome todo?" May I keep repeated words?

Don’t bother keeping repeated words unless they serve a purpose. Also, you don’t need to transcribe irrelevant parts of the recording. Some recordings include chit chat while waiting for someone to arrive. Of course there are roosters and background noises which you don’t need to mention (that is unless it adds a sense of place to the interview). Use your judgement.

4. What name or nickname do I give to the woman who's interviewing them?

The shortest and easiest for you. Again this isn’t an official record (like a trial) or anything.

5. May I literally transcribe it all or should I ignore the "confusing words" in the middle of the sentences or when you start saying something and suddenly stop saying it and start another sentence like "With McDonalds I don't... I used to study a lot" (being that those are two different sentences)? Should I leave it that way or do I just ignore the first incomplete sentence?

I think this is going to be the hardest. Try to capture what you think the person meant but sometimes the person just isn’t going to make perfect sense. Remember that we are going to translate some of the text and so if we don’t understand what the speaker meant, it will be impossible to translate. I transcribed a video interview and I even polished up the quotes to keep the original intention yet make them make sense. In at least one case I wrote down what he literally said, but put my interpretation in parentheses. That seemed to work pretty well, especially when it came to translation.

6. I suppose I must keep every grammatical error, right? e.g., They are rat (rats?). I are very happy.

Correct the grammar when you need to for clarification but try not to do it too much, since it will lose the sense of who the speaker is. I’d recommend trying to keep what they say but putting clarification in parentheses. Again it will help with translation (and me understanding it!!!)

7. What about contracted words so common in spoken language? "pra" instead of "para", "pro" instead of "para o", etc. Should I keep the contracted ones or the correct ones?

Keep the common language. They always use pra and pro and everyone understands it. It’s vernacular.