With the advancement of new encoding and decoding technology we can handle almost all of the popular digital file formats such as .wav, .mp3, .wma, .m4a, .ogg, .avi, .mid, .flac, .mov, .amr, .aac, .au, .aif, .raw, .dvf, .vox, .cda, gsm, .dss, .wmv, .asf, .flv, .mpeg, .mp4 and .DivX. The .wma files offer enormous versatility and are popular in voice recording. The .mp3 files offer greater flexibility and compatibility with all Windows, Mac and Android platforms as a compress file format. While .wav files are excellent in quality, they can be very large in size.
Don’t worry. We shall take care of the file format hassle since we have expertise in handling them for years.
Quality recordings have so much to offer to the accuracy of your transcriptions. However, at Engenia we realise the challenges in collecting data in fieldwork settings. Perhaps your best piece of information comes from a conversation recorded in a public place such as a café or a train station using your mobile phone. Whilst we recognized these challenges, we would like to encourage you to avoid noisy places in every possible instance and take the following tips into consideration when you do your recordings.
1. Use a good quality recorder and set it to an appropriate file format (.wma is recommended). Choose the correct recording mode e.g. Dictate mode for single speaker dictations and Conference or Stereo High Quality for multiple speaker settings. Avoid using Long play mode as it will compress audio files and deteriorate the quality.
2. Test your recorder in the real recording conditions prior to the real recording take place. Playback the test track and check the clarity of your test recordings. Adjust the volume to an appropriate level e.g. not too low or not too high.
3. Use an external microphone on every possible occasion as it will make a significant difference in recording quality, particularly if you are conducting group discussions.
4. Plan your recording in a quiet, preferably small, room with minimum background noises. The everyday noises such as wind gusting, air-conditioners, traffic jams, music, and people chatting in the background can significantly deteriorate the quality of your recordings. In an event of unavoidable interruptions, prepare yourself to pause the recording and restart once the noises have gone.
Handling heavy accents and recording group discussions
At Engenia we do not consider heavy accents a challenge as long as the recordings are in good quality and a decent level of accuracy. We have expert transcribers who are capable of handling English as second Language (ESL) accents.
From our experience of working with heavy accents; many of the challenges come from the English language difficulties and the flow of words rather than the accent per se. People, whether they are native speakers or otherwise quite often do not speak in full sentences. They stop at half, change their course and sometimes mumble since they take time to think while they express themselves. Applied it to the situation of the people with English language difficulties, this frequently brings difficulties in understanding and making sense of what they are trying to say.
In group discussions, people usually talk over each other, express themselves through side-chats, hissing, rustling and laughing. Therefore, if you plan to conduct interviews with ESL respondents or conduct group discussions, the following tips will be useful.
1. Make sure to place adequate microphones in a group discussion and place them in the correct distance between the interviewer and respondents.
2. If revealing respondents’ identity is not a problem, ask them to introduce themselves at the beginning of the discussion so that transcribers can identify them throughout the discussion.
3. With all due respect, encourage respondents to speak one at a time. In the event of people speaking over each other, go back to each respondent again and clarify what they wanted to say.
4. If there are particular respondents who are talking fast, respectfully ask them to slow down and give them adequate time to finish their sentences.
5. Don’t hesitate to repeat technical words and key sentences while you are recording. Provide a list of such words and brief notes to transcribers on every possible occasion as this will significantly enhance the quality of your transcripts.