Lost in translation. The art of data transcription and translation
Methodology Centre for Human Sciences Universtiy of Jyvaskyla Jyvaskyla, FINLAND
Transcribing talk originating from various interactional contexts into a written form is an integral part of qualitative research practice. Transcripts are produced for particular analytic purposes and therefore range in detail: from broad verbatim transcripts in more content oriented analysis to refined and detailed transcriptions on naturally occurring interaction and its multimodal aspects. Analytic traditions like conversation analysis and the wide range of research under the wide umbrella of ?discursive? all rely on and produce transcripts according to their own conventions, level of detail and procedure.
This paper offers a concise review on working with and producing ?good quality transcripts?. The main focus is on the largely overlooked question of having to produce transcripts of data originally in another language for an English speaking and reading audience. The paper claims that transcribing and translating data is not merely a question of ?adopting? or ?following? a ?transcription technique? but rather includes a range of practical and ideological questions concerning the level of detail chosen in the transcription, and of the way in which translations are physically presented in print. The mundane, practical choices made and their analytic, ideological and theoretical implications are, however, often hidden from the reader and only rarely explicitly dealt with in qualitative research reports and published analyses.
Discussion on transcription and data translation is crucial given that qualitative research based on working with transcripts uses transcripts as a central means of guaranteeing the credibility, cumulative nature and validity of its claims and findings. Opening questions concerning the art of translation to a wider and more detailed discussion is equally crucial as qualitative research is increasingly conducted in a transnational environment. Students, scholars, and data travel across national boundaries and new language areas join in. This means that guidelines on how data should ideally be translated and presented in an accessible yet precise fashion, and on how analytic transparency is secured are in increasing demand.