My Biggest Challenge

I am finally getting back to going through the hours and hours of audio interviews that I've recorded with Su Beng over the years. This part of the process is undoubtedly the most challenging part of this entire project. It is time consuming, tedious and mundane- and I'll admit it, I am loathe to do it, even though I know that it has to be done. My hugest obstacle has been my own resistance to this. There is no way around it. I know that I need to just get over it, and work through it.

The hardest part is always just getting started or re-started. So I am now committing myself to sitting my a** in a chair (excuse my French) for about two hours at a time, no matter what, several times a week to listen to, translate and transcribe my interviews with Su Beng. In fact, I've already been doing this for the past couple of months. And sitting for about two hours at a time seems to work for me because I don't think I can stay sharply focused beyond two hours. It takes a great deal of focus and attention to do this kind of work, maybe even more so for me because I'm not a trained translator. Even when I've transcribed interviews that were conducted in English, it takes time. I guess I'm just not cut out to be a stenographer. Recently, I timed myself and it took me about two hours to go through 30 minutes of one of my interviews with Su Beng. That seems about right, but sometimes it can take longer. I'm going to have to time myself a couple more times to figure out what on average, I'm able to do in two hours time.  

Even after I've gone through my first listen, I often still need to work with a native Taiwanese speaker to fine tune my translation and to fill in the gaps of what I was unable to translate. It is an arduous process- the transcription and translation, but when I do get into the thick of it, I often find myself unearthing fascinating nuggets of information. That's when I'm reminded of why I'm doing this all. 

Why don't I just hand things over to a translator?

Translation I've learned, is kind of a tricky thing. I've definitely had things that I've written mistranslated, so call me a bit of a control freak on this. Translating my interviews with Su Beng involves much more than simply translating what's been said in the recording. An accurate translation would require an understanding of: 1) the reasoning behind my specific line of questioning, and 2) the context of topics discussed in the interview. The right translator would also need to have a good understanding of Taiwan's situation and history, and be able to decipher the mix of Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and sprinkling of English that Su Beng speaks.

Long ago, I decided that even though it doesn't seem very efficient to do so, I need to personally go though and do the first listen of my interviews with Su Beng. Doing the first transcription and translation of the interviews is a necessary part of my research, in a sense, because it allows me to revisit and deepen my understanding of Su Beng and the times that he's lived through. After all, writers, by the nature of what we do relive, re-learn, re-see, re-experience, and re-tell. 

For now, I need to get over the hurdle of documenting all of my research so that I can move onto the next stage which is what I'm excited about: the piecing together all of the research, and the telling the story of this man's life.