Transcribing speech

OK Y12 language people, as promised here’s some further guidance about the task I set you. Y12 Lang/Lit people, we’ll be doing speech too (it’s the focus of Unit 3, Section B), so you would benefit from this, too.

You can download a guide to transcription conventions in Word format by clicking here.

Ideally from an ethical point of view, you should ask the people involved if it’s OK for you to record them, but give them plenty of time to get used to the presence of the recording device so that they speak in a natural way. It will be much easier for you to get a clear recording that is easy to transcribe if there is a minimum of background noise, so try and avoid recording in a crowded place, or with a loud television or music in the background.

Don’t feel the need to record something that you think of as particularly ‘interesting’. The whole point here is that we are looking at how speech is used in ordinary, everyday contexts. It might be you and a friend just chatting, family conversation at the breakfast table, a teacher discussing your homework with you.

If you have to resort to recording from TV or radio rather than real life, please make sure you choose something that is not scripted in advance (eg. an extract from a chat-show, phone-in or reality TV show).

It’s up to you how much to transcribe, but it is a laborious process to get right and will involve lots of stopping starting and rewinding to listen over and over again to accurately indicate features such as pauses and overlaps etc. Even if you only transcribe a minute or so of conversation you will probably have more than enough to show most of the key features of spoken English.

Please keep a copy of the recording so that the accuracy of your transcription can be checked.

Technically advanced students may wish to impress me by emailing their word-processed transcripts and a copy of the relevant part of the sound file in mp3 or ogg-vorbis format (try for a free sound editor that will enable you to do this if you know your way around computers).

If you’re stuck with good old paper and pen and a tape recorder whatever, that’s fine too.


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