March Issue: Difficulties of Audio Transcription and Translation

People transcribing audios
Image by robinsonma

I have recently done a project where I had to translate from English into Russian an interview for a watchmaking magazine that was only available as an audio. Needless to say, this type of assignment is much more involved and time-consuming than a translation of the same subject matter and level of linguistic difficulty. Here are some of the main challenges of this type of project and some ways of overcoming them.

  1. Non-native speakers of English
    The interview was conducted in English, but neither participant spoke English as their first language. A Russian interviewer talked to a Francophone representative of the watch company. To make matters worse, the interviewer was far from fluent in English and seemed to be surprised at the lack of interpreting.
    Luckily, the magazine had sent me the list of questions in Russian, which was very helpful in understanding what the interviewer was trying to say. In addition, that list provided me with some key terminology, which I then used in my translation to ensure consistency with the in-house lingo of the magazine. Ideally, a glossary and style guide would be sent, too, but that was not the case with this translation.
  2. Misunderstandings
    The second difficulty partly followed from the first — as the interviewer struggled to express his question in English, the guest inevitably misunderstood him. Consequently, the guest gave a very detailed answer to the question that was never meant to be asked!
    My solution was to provide a note indicating the question from the original list that I believed the interviewer was trying to ask and the question that he ended up asking. I will be very curious to see what the magazine did about it.
  3. Proper and brand names
    Anything having to do with business and production will inevitably feature names of products, enterprises, and people. These are not always easy to identify in hearing or to research online.
    However, if you look up a general description of your company’s products and services, you may come across the right name. In addition, the unclear word may be explained further in the interview as the guest dwells upon the subject. Such was the case in the watch interview, where the guest talked about the origin of the name of their new collection. Finally, if you have contact with the company or if your client does, you can always ask them. In any case, you may want to indicate any areas of uncertainty in your translation so that these may be clarified before the interview is published.
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