Tag Archives: Transcription

LaBudde Special Collections Transcription: Learning to Hear

Today I began two transcriptions which, though similar in focus, couldn’t have resulted in more diverse work experiences.  One was an individual monologue about the gay scene in Kansas City since the 1960s.  The other was a round table discussions of the different experiences of a group of lesbians in Kansas City.  While the monologue flowed fairly smoothly and demanded more focus on grammatical form, due to the narrators use of pauses and vocal delivery, the round table require more nuanced attention.  With frequent interruptions, laughter, and joking among the narrators as they seamlessly flowed off of and into each others conversations, I found myself needing to stop and learn the narrator’s unique voices.  While the first project demanded I try to understand the rhythm and meaning of the narrator’s delivery (to know what should be a period or comma), the other demanded I listen for distinct voice markers.

In both cases I needed to hear the individual quality of the narrator’s voice, but in different ways.  I couldn’t simply type out what I heard.  In the monologue, without first hearing the narrators rhythm and broader topic, I could very easily structure the statements incorrectly.  In the round table interview, the general lack of names being given before speaking and the boisterous free-flow of conversation, left me confused without better context.  Though both required topical context, the round table drove me to become familiar with the voices themselves.  In both transcriptions I needed to start orienting myself a few minutes into the recording, not at the beginning.  This was a new experience compared to those stories I had heard since childhood which start at, you guessed it, the beginning.  I needed to not only hear the rural style to “Pat’s” Midwestern voice as opposed to the higher pitched, New Jersey fast pace of Giselle’s voice; but I also needed to hear the more nuanced differences between the rich tones of Sue’s Davenport voice  and Bev’s Kansas City voice.

The longer I listened, over and over, I started to hear the vocal tones of different laughs and the patterns of different speakers.  I began to become familiar with their voices, to know them.  I began to really hear them.  Sometimes foreign to the historical voices of monographs and journal essays, the recordings brought be into a more challenging and more personal type of history.  It was challenging, disorienting, and a little unsettling.  But it was also beautiful.  The struggle to discover the voices of the historical agents was present, just like in other forms of research, but in new ways.  It wasn’t enough to hear the narrator’s voice, to get their words, but I had to discern their voice for its distinct qualities.  It wasn’t enough to know the words and actions of the historical agent, but what makes them different from other historical agents.  Today was a wonderful example of literally learning to hear the voices of those in the past who I had never heard before, and I can’t wait to hear what they will say next.

LaBudde

GLAMA

Summer Internship Opportunity at the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education

The Midwest Center for Holocaust Education seeks a summer intern who will become familiar with local survivor testimony through the transcription of oral history videos. Additional tasks in support of the project may include conducting research to identify hard copy and web-based resources to contextualize and support each survivor story. The project requires a basic understanding of modern European and Holocaust history. A familiarity with European languages and accents is beneficial. Flexible scheduling of hours Monday-Thursday on a consistent schedule.

Interested applicants should send initial inquiries to Jessica Rockhold, Director of Education,  jessicar@mchekc.org and follow the instruction on the How to Apply page. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

“Kitchka, kitchka”

IMG_1361After working on over a dozen transcripts of Holocaust survivor interviews, I have learned a lot of information that I did not expect to learn from this experience. I know more Hebrew and more about various Jewish holidays that I ever knew before. I’ve learned how to identify Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish words (to a certain extent). I’ve learned about branches of Zionist organizations in Eastern Europe. The context needed to accurately transcribe this information is sometimes daunting, but it is also fascinating to learn about the everyday life of pre-war Poland, Germany, and Hungary through the memories of the interviewees.

I have also learned when I am likely to have a more difficult time with a transcription. With my background in German, I am usually able to easily handle an interview full of German terms or place names. Polish, on the other hand, is not so familiar to me – often, however, the Polish mentioned in the interview is supplemented by Yiddish, which is more similar to German. Hungarian is, unfortunately, almost entirely foreign to me, but I have only worked on two interviews from Hungarian survivors. As I said before, Google Translate is a big help for identifying words or small phrases.

Sometimes, though, the path of researching a term or phrase is anything but straightforward. As I was working on an interview with a Polish survivor, he mentioned a game that he used to play when he was a child. “Kitchka,” he said – the interviewer was not sure what he meant, and as the interviewee described it, the interviewer decided it must be cricket. To check for spelling, I looked for the Polish word for cricket, and then the Yiddish word, but nothing matched. Eventually we contacted a historian Jessica knows to ask, and it turns out that “kitchka” is an obscure game particular to the area the survivor grew up in, with some similarities to cricket. No matter how much I may feel prepared for the next transcript, there is usually at least one curveball waiting for me.