Blog Detail



Blog Detail


Navigating Challenges in Interview Transcriptions and Translations.




We are thrilled to welcome you to this piece where we embark on a delightful exploration of challenges in interview transcriptions and translations. The world of transcription and translation is complex and demanding, requiring a delicate balance between linguistic expertise, cultural understanding, and technical proficiency. While technological advancements may offer solutions to some challenges, the human touch, with its nuanced understanding of language and context, remains irreplaceable in the realm of accurate transcriptions and translations. The need for accurate transcriptions and translations is common practice in research and knowledge production. Transcribing and translating are frequently used synonymously. Yet, these two language offerings are different in use and practice. Whereas transcription is turning speech into text in one language, translation entails converting content from one language into another. Whether converting speech into text or overcoming language barriers for effective communication, these tasks are necessary for numerous organisations including, Facilitation for Peace and Development (FAPAD) where the authors are employed as research and project assistants. However, behind the scenes, professionals working on transcriptions and translations must grapple with many challenges, ranging from the seemingly mundane, such as punctuations, to more complicated issues like inaudible audio segments, making their roles both complex and demanding. Although we are not trained data transcribers and translators, we have recently taken part in FAPAD research projects in collaboration with local and international researchers to help clean and refine their data. One of the projects we have contributed to is the F-PAL (Film-in-Participatory Action Learning) and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Children Born of War: Impact Enhancement Hub Lira (IEHL). The F-PAL project aimed to integrate Children Born of War (CBOW) and increase public knowledge and understanding of the challenges they face in post-conflict societies, particularly in Northern Uganda where this topic remains taboo and CBOW continue to be marginalized. The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Children Born of War: Impact Enhancement Hub Lira (IEHL) project focused on improving the impact of research on sexual and gender-based violence and CBOW protection in Northern Uganda by strengthening the link between research and programming. One of us participated in data collection for the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Children Born of War project. In the F-PAL study, both of us only listened to and worked on the interview recordings. While we are early in our careers, we are both interested in research and keen to learn more about how research initiatives like these are conceived/designed, executed/delivered and findings presented. Thus far, it appears that our avenues of access into the research industry and knowledge creation at large have been the translation and transcription of interviews. In this essay, we reflect on and discuss our experiences translating and transcribing twenty eight interview recordings for the F-PAL as well as how we overcame the difficulties that came with the activity.

Accuracy is paramount.


We found that the primary hurdle in transcriptions and translations lies in the relentless pursuit of accuracy. A slight error can result in miscommunication of the interviewee’s exchanges with the interviewer. During transcription, we confronted the challenge of interpreting accents, dialects, and speech nuances. As translators, we captured the essence of the source language without compromising its intended meaning. Although at first we were concerned that our inexperience with the subject might result in poor translations and transcriptions, we were sure that our ability to speak the interview language fluently would be a useful component of this task. Since the Lango region is where we were both born, raised and now working, we speak the Luo dialects quite well. Similarly, we are both graduates and our command of English was strong enough for this activity. Moreover, Immaculate holds a degree in literature and that background came in handy as we made sure our outputs met the researchers' requirement of accuracy. We have contributed to a variety of projects at FAPAD, some of which have been directly related to the topics addressed in the F-PAL project. As a result, we were able to relate to the project’s subject matter quickly, which made it easier to understand the questions and issues discussed in the interview recordings. We were able to clarify any unclear audio passages and fix any errors or ambiguities in our transcribed materials. It was our experience that gaining expertise about the subject is vital for generating accurate transcriptions and translations.

Maintaining Consistency.

We found that consistency is important in both transcriptions and translations. Sustaining a uniform tone, style, and terms/words throughout a document or audio file posed challenges, especially with lengthy and complex content. Striking the right balance between using appropriate language and ensuring comprehension added another layer of difficulty for us. Teamwork between us and regular communication helped us to address questions, clarify doubts, and ensure everyone was aligned with our set guidelines.

Dealing with different accents and dialects.

Speech varies significantly across individuals, even within a single dialect which complicates transcribing and translating processes. We found that a nuanced understanding of culture is essential to grasp exchanges, slang, and expressions, transcending mere word-for-word translation. Pronunciation differences between accents can result in confusion during transcription, especially if the transcriber is not familiar with the specific accent. For instance, the project covered both Lango and Acholi dialects and all have different accents which could possibly alter meanings of the word especially because the transcriber is from Lango dialect. Dealing with accents and dialects often required more time and effort in navigating the interviews and verification to ensure the accuracy of the transcription or translation. .

Handling ambiguity and contextual challenges

In some of the interview recordings, we found some exchanges a bit ambiguous or lacking context. We were then confronted with the challenge of deriving meaning from incomplete or unclear exchanges. However, we relied on a blend of education and linguistic skills, cultural awareness, and the ability to make informed decisions based on context. We were compelled to treat every word with importance, as each contributed to the overall content. Concluding Remark. Overall, when dealing with different accents and dialects, using transcriptionists and translators who understand local differences is key. The process needs to find a good balance between keeping things consistent and appreciating the variety in how people speak.

Leave a comment

© Facilitation For Peace and Development. All Rights Reserved.