Transcription - what to do when the recording is not clear?
Thread poster: Quyen Ngo
Quyen Ngo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Nov 22, 2007

I am currently transcribing audio from a cassette tape. The audio is sometimes not clear due to background noise, unclear pronunciation etc. How do you transcribe a word that you are not not sure of, even after replaying it many times, you can't clearly make it out? Do you put what you think it is, do you put a little explanation? What is the proper way of going about this?





[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-11-22 19:27]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-11-22 19:28]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:30
French to Spanish
+ ...
Well... Nov 22, 2007

Three options:

1.- put what you think it is;
2.- if you're less sure, well, put something "that fits" in the context (if you don't get it, nobody will and nobody shall argue you were wrong);
3.- if not sure at all, simply "not hearable" or whatever.

I sometimes have to do it in my field: subtitling. I can't put "not hearable" so, well, I have to somehow "invent" something, that fits, of course. After 15 years in this matter, so far so good.

Of course, in legal matters, you should be very carfull: wrong sentence due to a wrong transcription could lead some innocent to jail, or vice versa.

Good luck.


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Dina Malagamba  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:30
English to Italian
+ ...
highlight the "problematic" word Nov 22, 2007

Hi,

at the moment I'm busy with the same kind of work and experiencing the same problems. What I usually do - I don't know if it's the right way of going about this - is to highlight the word which I'm not sure about, putting it, for example, between two # (which can easily be found with a search function): If I can't absolutely hear a word or havent got a clue of what it is, I substitute **** for it (again, the client can easily finde it with the search function). If possible, I also take note of the exact point on the tape where that word is to be found (minutes and seconds)

I explain my "code" to the client. So far my clients have been happy with this way of dealing with the problem.

hope it helps

Dina

carolton67 wrote:


I am currently transcribing audio from a cassette tape. The audio is sometimes not clear due to background noise, unclear pronunciation etc. How do you transcribe a word that you are not not sure of, even after replaying it many times, you can't clearly make it out? Do you put what you think it is, do you put a little explanation? What is the proper way of going about this?





[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-11-22 19:27]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-11-22 19:28]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unintelligible Nov 22, 2007

You insert at those points. You could put the word you think it may be but not sure in ( ?) indicating that is an educated guess.

You cannot do much more, some recordings can be terrible, with background noise, poor volume, several people speaking at the same time, inability to identify voices, etc.

Of course you must point out to the client that the recording is poor, and thus accuracy cannot be guaranteed.


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
inaudible Nov 22, 2007

I usually write inaudible in italics if it's just one or two words. If it's a longer stretch of audio, (like the example I had a couple of weeks ago where the interviewee had a crying baby on his lap between him and the mike, and he just kept right on talking) then I put something like "inaudible due to baby crying" and note the audio time.

Often, though, as you keep listening the same phrase or name or whatever it is will come up again later on in the recording and be easily recognizable. And again, as you listen from the beginning for the final listen/read through you'll hear something so clearly you'll wonder why you didn't get it the first twenty times you played it.

Hope this helps....good luck!


Paty


[Edited at 2007-11-22 20:29]


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 07:30
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Unintelligible, between brackets. Nov 22, 2007

I always do what Henry said, but just to clarify, here's an illustration.

Henry Hinds wrote:

You cannot do much more, some recordings can be terrible, with background noise, poor volume, several people speaking at the same time, inability to identify voices, etc.


If that sentence were on the tape, and if I couldn't understand the word "terrible," I would write:

You cannot do much more, some recordings can be [unintelligible], with background noise, poor volume, several people speaking at the same time, inability to identify voices, etc.

If there are only a few "unintelligibles" throughout the transcription, I don't feel a need to make any special explanations to the client. During a deposition, I once had a witness and three lawyers all talking at once, and I inserted that information, since it was relevant to the judge to know what was going on at that deposition. I would do the same with Paty's crying-baby situation.

If there are more than, say, two "unintelligibles" per minute of recorded time, I would contact the client about the quality of the recording.


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 06:30
Spanish
+ ...
[unintelligible] Nov 22, 2007

That's exactly what I do. I also use brackets to add any comments I might have. Of course, I always tell the client about them.

JaneTranslates wrote:

I always do what Henry said, but just to clarify, here's an illustration.

Henry Hinds wrote:

You cannot do much more, some recordings can be terrible, with background noise, poor volume, several people speaking at the same time, inability to identify voices, etc.


If that sentence were on the tape, and if I couldn't understand the word "terrible," I would write:

You cannot do much more, some recordings can be [unintelligible], with background noise, poor volume, several people speaking at the same time, inability to identify voices, etc.

If there are only a few "unintelligibles" throughout the transcription, I don't feel a need to make any special explanations to the client. During a deposition, I once had a witness and three lawyers all talking at once, and I inserted that information, since it was relevant to the judge to know what was going on at that deposition. I would do the same with Paty's crying-baby situation.

If there are more than, say, two "unintelligibles" per minute of recorded time, I would contact the client about the quality of the recording.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:30
English to French
+ ...
Standard practices Nov 22, 2007

If you don't understand because the speaker is too far from the microphone or doesn't speak loud enough, you insert [inaudible]. If you don't undertand because it is hard to make out what the person is saying (for example, the speaker has a strong accent or a bad cold), then you insert [unintelligible]. Everything that you type that is not included between brackets should reflect exactly what the speaker said. If you are unsure, please don't invent or substitute, it is the worst thing you can do. Imagine someone being quoted as saying X when they really said Y - this can have a huge impact somewhere down the line. Inventing and substituting is considered downright unprofessional in the transcription business.

[Edited at 2007-11-22 22:16]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It depends on the purpose of the transcription Nov 22, 2007

I do a lot of video translation work for dubbing or subtitling. Before translating, as I work from audio files at this stage, I improve them with Acoustica http://www.acondigital.com/us_Acoustica1.html , whick will make my work easier.

For dubbing, there is no problem, as the original sound won't be there. Anything that makes sense will fit. As a matter of fact, all double entendres , word plays, and jokes have to be re-created.

For subtitling, if I can't understand what they say, it should be a safe bet that spectators won't either; but it must make sense. Btw, as a courtesy, when the client wants me to do the subtitling and assemble the DVD on top of the translation itself, I swap the whole soundtrack with the improved (de-noised, de-hissed, de-hummed, and properly normalized) one I've made for my use. Some of them even phone me to say that my subtitles are great, but the sound is unbelievably better.

But if it's for legal purposes, you cannot invent one iota of your own there. After the audio has been cleaned, whatever cannot be understood will be [unintelligible], and that's it.

Recently a client consulted me about cleaning over 100 hours (sic!!!) of recorded phone conversations, so they can hire cheap and fast transcribers, who only work from "clean" audio.

[Edited at 2007-11-22 22:48]


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Quyen Ngo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all the wonderful answers Nov 23, 2007

I truly appreciate all the great answers to my post. They were all very helpful.

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Quyen Ngo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What about editing? Nov 23, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

If you don't understand because the speaker is too far from the microphone or doesn't speak loud enough, you insert [inaudible]. If you don't undertand because it is hard to make out what the person is saying (for example, the speaker has a strong accent or a bad cold), then you insert [unintelligible]. Everything that you type that is not included between brackets should reflect exactly what the speaker said. If you are unsure, please don't invent or substitute, it is the worst thing you can do. Imagine someone being quoted as saying X when they really said Y - this can have a huge impact somewhere down the line. Inventing and substituting is considered downright unprofessional in the transcription business.

[Edited at 2007-11-22 22:16]


Thanks for the pointers. I get no inventing or substituting, but what if a speaker stammers or stưtters? You wouldn't write every stammered word would you? Wouldn't you edit it so that it is coherent?


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 07:30
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on purpose of transcription Nov 23, 2007

carolton67 wrote:

...what if a speaker stammers or stưtters? You wouldn't write every stammered word would you? Wouldn't you edit it so that it is coherent?


Again, it depends on the purpose of the transcription. In most cases, I would say to leave in a few stammers or "uh"s, or maybe place "[stammering]" at the start of the speech. However, if it's a legal transcription, such as a deposition, you're supposed to put in everything that comes out of the person's mouth. If, perhaps, stammering increases at one point, it might mean that the line of questioning has made the person more nervous. That's for the judge to decide, not the transcriber.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:30
English to French
+ ...
The proper way to do it Nov 23, 2007

carolton67 wrote:
...but what if a speaker stammers or stưtters? You wouldn't write every stammered word would you? Wouldn't you edit it so that it is coherent?


No. What I would do is the following:

Audio: In my humble opinion, skippity be-bop skippity do.

Transcription: In my humble opinion, [unintelligible].

If you think you understand bits of the unintelligible part, then a solution such as the following might work:

In my humble opinion, [unintelligible - it sounds like the speaker is saying that he doesn't think the solution is viable].

This way, without accidentally distorting what the speaker said, you are still providing pointers to what the speaker may have said. Whoever will read the transcription will know that this bit is not what was actually said but rather what the transcriber thinks was said. In any case, any bit you are not sure about should go between square brackets. Whatever is outside the brackets should be identical to what the speaker really said.

If the speaker stutters, then you can add [stutters], just like you would add [laughs]. You should try to transcribe any sound pronounced by speakers, not just speech. If a speaker yawns, you are supposed to add [yawns], especially with legal transcription.

Of course, for longer bits, don't add [unintelligible] several times in a row to illustrate that several words were unintelligible. Just add one.

All the best!


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Transcription - what to do when the recording is not clear?

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