Oral history teaching

The Most Important Transcriptional Damage

Seyedeh Tahereh Moayedi
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


One of the serious drawbacks of oral history is in the transcriptional phase, which is unfortunately considered insignificant. Sometimes, some people cooperate in group writing; The weakest member of the group is selected for transcription. The weakest member is a person who doesn't have a strong social presence, his/her time is limited, and doesn't have communication skills, enough literacy, and ability. It seems that this person is a marginalized one! While the transcription and conversion phase of oral speech to the text is precisely a decisive and important phase. This transfer is specialized; That is, the transcriptionist in these works (memories, oral history, or oral memoirs) has a decisive agent and group; because the result of the work comes from when it is transcribed and comes on paper. After the accurate and principled transcription, some editions will be done on it, and become the final product.

Therefore, it is emphasized that the responsibility of transcription should not be given to amateurs, novices, and disabled persons. Incidentally, it should be left to someone who has good general knowledge. Literacy and understanding of transcriptionist should be good and s/he should have other characteristics in this regard. We need someone who is completely faithful to the voice of the interview and try to transcribe it accurately.

One of the pieces of violence against transcription is that transcriptionists often carry out transcription based on their suspicions and tastes. We used to say a phrase: "the loss of the narrator's style and words in books"; when we go and look at where this error started, we see that this error was committed by the transcriptions. That is, it does not matter at all that social status the narrator has. What style does it have? What is its sound and word? Rather, he created a word on paper based on his understanding and ease of transcription. Sometimes, it is found that interviews are transcribed in the form of comprehension; That is, the transcriptionist listens to the voices of the interview for a few minutes and then writes down what s/he found. To be sure, s/he listens to the voice once again so that s/he does not miss the strategic sentence or word. Unfortunately, it does not matter who old this person is? What is her/his gender? What social status does s/he come from? In what mood and style did s/he speak on that particular day and date? Maybe in the next meeting, the interviewer's mood is different! For example, one session of the interview may be held at seventh Muharram month and the next session will be held in the Safar month; the narrator's mood in Muharram will probably be more spiritual. Therefore, the transcription phase is very important for the interviewer to pay attention to even these points.

■One researcher and writer for one process

The effort, advice, and emphasis, based on experience in recent years, is that, as far as possible, there should be one researcher, compiler, recorder, transcriptionist, and writer for one process. That means all are the characteristic of a person who wants to write. Preferably, this is very desirable, but there are some people who, because of their communication skills, personal taste, social character, etc., like to just record and interview. Although they are advised to edit and write the interview yourself, they will not agree. On the other hand, this cannot be forced, because the workload is extensive. So it can be for some that, although they are not a researcher and don't have a project, they do the writing and transcription.

The important point for those who have not been a researcher or an interviewer is that content of the transcribed interview is not enough for them; they listened at least two to four hours (randomly) to interviews. Because hearing an interviewee's voice brings us very close to the world and that interviewee's intellectual, mental, social class, and atmosphere. Unfortunately, this does not happen in many projects that are urgent and customizable. Here the question may arise: If someone becomes an editor of a work that s/he has not been its researcher and interviewer, has not already done transcription work, or has not even heard the interview, but s/he has previous knowledge of the narrator; is this knowledge enough for editing work?

In response, it should be said: If you have previous knowledge of the narrator, which is very good, but you can also prepare for new knowledge and be sure to go to a meeting and see your narrator up close and talk to him. The visual relationship and seeing people is very different from the auditory relationship. If you have a visual connection, it will be a good tool for your writing stage.

■The range of intervention in transcription

The writer must make good use of his research and material in writing and give the full and accurate right to the content. Sometimes we as writers may have little or no information about a topic, here the type we have chosen to write can be helpful. For example, when our type of writing is "memory", we can write a narrative based on the memories. When we write: a narrative based on the memories of, for example, a soldier, it causes us to decide what to do in our narrative. But, when we want to write exactly the individual memoirs as a memoirist, we have to be very loyal to that person's life and do the factual things.

In this regard, we must use accurate and real words and phrases, with practical and common meanings in that space. In a memoir, for example, we hear that the narrator was a soldier at once upon a time, here the use of the word zero or ordinary soldier or a duty diploma from the military adviser's point of view are words with different meanings that have completely different contexts. We must pay attention to those professional meanings so that we do not get into trouble later. But sometimes we mistakenly use the phrase "ordinary soldier", whereas ordinary soldier has no meaning in the army context at all. If we present it to the military adviser, we will see that the military adviser says: he will say that there is a difference between soldiers' ranks (diploma soldier and a sub-diploma soldier and an illiterate soldier) in training places and groups.

In the past time, it was so hard to a diploma was so hard and not everyone could get it and stayed behind the diploma barrier. Sometimes education systems decide to have diploma forces. For example, you see that the date of birth of those whose diplomas were issued in June 1979 is much more than 18 years. That is, those who graduated in 1358 must have been born in 1961 and graduated at the age of 18. But, it can be seen that in that year, many people who were born between 1953 and 1962 received the diploma. Due to the revolution and the closure of schools for several months, etc., it was announced in a letter in May 1358; many of the difficult parts of chemistry, algebra, analysis, trigonometry, etc. have been removed. So all those who were exhausted by the hard lessons got a diploma! Therefore, when a person says that she received a diploma in June 1979, s/he did not necessarily graduate at the age of 18, and the author should be aware of the fact that she will certainly have an impact on the writing of the text.

Sometimes the definition of training barracks can be specific because some training barracks differ from regular barracks depending on their function. For example, the name of 04 Birjand barracks is a well-known word that has added value based on reality, and you can add it to your text if necessary. Another example is that if the narrator says: We were the center of 05 Kerman. As a writer, if you write that we were the educational center of 05 Kerman, you have not distorted and manipulated history; because you bring the exact name of the educational center - that is, 05 Kerman. So we have to note that the barracks system is different from the training center. The Air Force Training Center, for example, has a place where people receive air training. Therefore, it is not called a barracks. Now the neighbors around may say: This is the Air Force barracks. But structurally, the person who received air training there; says I was in the air training center. So we will find out what training that person has taken.

When the narrator tells us about his military service or says that he was an ordinary soldier and does not tell us whether he is a diplomat or illiterate, we have to ask him about his education and his duty if he does not mention his level of education in the conversations to know what level of literacy we are facing. In many barracks have the soldier, they were addressed by slang and sometimes insulting words from the beginning to get used to it. For some of this verbal and behavioral violence, the training staff of the units raises the level of literacy of the individuals and complains about this violence and defends their actions! There is no room here to check whether this is right or wrong, but it is also not right that awareness is not behind it.

The training groups of doctorates, or master's and bachelor's degrees and postgraduate are different. As you can see, the ranking comes down. Training staff who work with doctorates are usually more rational and mature. [1]


[1] Retrieved from: The session of compiling and arranging oral history thought, by Mohammad Ghasemipour, on Saturday, September 7, 2019.

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