As audio transcribers we listen to sound. Of primary importance is the clarity of the sound.
The quality of being clear (‘easy to perceive, understand, or interpret’), in particular:
- The quality of being coherent and intelligible
- The quality of being easy to hear; sharpness of sound
- The quality of purity
Let’s consider these qualities and their relevance to the audio transcriber.
The quality of being coherent and intelligible
All of us, when engaged in discussion and conversation, want our language to be coherent and intelligible. However, for the transcriber listening to a recording, its clarity in the sense of being coherent and intelligible is something of a paradox; it is simultaneously useful and yet also to be ignored.
Naturally, we know that our brains are programmed to attempt to organise and make sense of language. In this sense, context can often present the transcriber with an invaluable clue to making out words which may be difficult to hear in a recording.
At the initial drafting stage of transcription what we hear at first can turn out to be quite different when we re-listen, edit and proofread the transcript with the glorious benefit of wider context to assist us. Here are a few of the more entertaining examples:
you wear glasses becomes yoga classes
it’s among the becomes it’s a manga [comic]
yes she was becomes H G Wells
whisking gently becomes whiskey J&B [discussing a recipe!]
However, since the raison d’être of this corpus is as a basis for research into the language of learners, part of the skill here is in not being distracted by our knowledge of grammatical rules and the surrounding context.
The audio transcriber’s task is to hear what the learner actually says; this may not always be what they (or we) think or expect might be logical or appropriate (or desirable!). Indeed, the transcription conventions are designed specifically to minimise the possibility of this happening during the transcription process. In the context of a Graded Examination in Spoken English (GESE) the students (and, on rare occasion, the examiners) can, and sometimes do, say anything!
Below are a few examples of wrong words and non-words which are to be transcribed, alongside words which may have been intended by the speaker: