About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What I learned from transcribing

As I have written before, I have been busy transcribing taped interviews for my dissertation. Interestingly enough, through the process of transcription, I have made a number of observations about language, how we interpret messages, and even perhaps, how easy it is to miscommunicate by hearing what we think rather than what another's words actually are.

These observations include:

1) There are filler words that we tend to tune out in listening. There were many times when "like", "you know", or "I mean" were in a sentence and I had to slow the tape down in order to identify those words. I knew I was missing something, but without slowing down the tape, I had trouble "hearing" the words as it seemed my mind ignored them. It makes me wonder what other things I don't hear in conversation for the same reason.

2) I just finished transcribing a tape which I found was extremely difficult. The person who was talking placed words such as adverbs (really, very, actually) in odd places. As a result, I found myself lost at times, trying to understand the meaning of the sentence. I remembered how tiring this interview was and thought it was because there was very little interaction between myself and this person (which was an accurate perception after completing the transcription). Now, however, I feel it was the non-traditional use of word placement that was difficult to follow.

3) I found often that I would type those words that seemed to make sense to me rather than really hear the words. As a result, those who spoke the same way I do were the easiest to transcribe. In other words, I often anticipated and filled in words rather than truely listening to the speaker. I wonder how often we do this which then leads to miscommunication (but I thought you said...). The transcription has made me more aware of my listening skills (which others have told me are good, but obviously can be improved).

4) I have always had trouble listening and writing at the same time. I was always a person who took very brief notes if at all. I could usually remember what was said. However, I realized that I missed a lot of information from the interview because I focused on certain concepts. Even stopping to take general notes made me miss some important things being said. I believe that taping lectures might be more effective for some students and note-taking might be more of a hinderance than helpful.

5) People who work together closely do begin to use similiar terms. But in distributed groups, these terms might be understood differently. In exploring this in my interviews, I was surprised how those who worked in immediate proximately had almost the same definiation to the word, but those who worked within the group but a different office differed in the meaning of the words they were asked to define.

1 comment:

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

Thanks for reporting your interesting observations.

I spent some time working with broadcasters in the 90s - not direct employment per se but with work acquaintances and related involvement nevertheless.

We did a series of interviews for broadcast. These were vetted and edited by the broadcasting technicians who removed coughs and ems and ahs and extra words. I thought at the time that the end results were less interesting and had lost some of the character offered by a candid interview.

I recalled at the time a radio program I'd listened to some years before. It elaborated on how these extra ems and ahs used in speech by some actually brought interest and character to what they had to say.

I also recalled the distinct dialect and accent of the people of Somerset, and a few other places such as Liverpool, all of which had their idiosyncratic sounds and other nuances associated with their use of the English language.

Like you, I believe that we tend to auto-correct what we hear, like the auto-correct in Word. Taking this a stage further, the interpretation, as you say, is left up to how we try to make sense of what is said by auto-fitting the words to the familiar orders and (of course) meanings.

Robert Frost said that "poetry is what is lost in translation". There is a lot to that idea. Perhaps it's not just the poetry that's lost when we auto-translate what is said and reinterpret it as what we thought was said.

Catchya later