Transcription in Kaqchikel. My Experience

Something incredible that I learned while on this trip to the UMD Guatemala Field Station this summer is that simply talking with someone about their day can reveal unique oral narratives. Recording, transcribing, and translating these narratives can aid in the preservation of the storytelling methods in the language that one is studying. in my case Kaqchikel.

For my host Doña Güicha and I (and for many people around the world), asking about the happenings in each other’s days is usually where our conversations would begin after a long day of work. I wanted a chance to document those interactions, so I made this recording while we sat together, watching the tortillas heat up on the wooden stove top. In the background the youngest member of our family, 7 year old Daniel, plays with the chair (and occasionally screams). We had spent many nights like this while I was in Patzún, but this had to be one of the most memorable.

Tia Güicha, as I fondly called her, is pictured here. She speaks the most fluent and unabridged Kaqchikel in my host family. I only comprehended maybe every 5th or so word of her short dialogue, but I hung onto every word.

I noticed her transitions: she used k’a ri' quite frequently as one would use “then” in conversation. Sometimes she would actually throw in Spanish transition words, like y or entonces or despues (even when it was solely supposed to be in Kaqchikel).

The second thing I noticed was the way she typically described her day. She usually approximated the time (mid day, evening, etc.) rather than saying the time. This made sense as I had learned that people don't really count in Kaqchikel often, and describing the time this way was the preferred way. It seemed to me that home life was really important to her, and she had an incredible lexicon for these things. She told me what she bought to eat, what she ate, what she cooked, what chores she did, etc.

Here is a sample of my transcription.

... "xinya' kan ri sub'ab'äl pa ruwi' q'aq'"
... "dejé mi (recipiente al vapor) encima del fuego"
... I left my steamed pot on the fire.

Finally, something imperative that I learned while on this journey to transcribe is that you can't always get the perfect conditions for audio recording! Sometimes there's background noise (thunderstorms). Sometimes you have to deal with screaming children. This is why I indicated these screams by using square brackets. Like this:

[grito de bebé]

Thank you to Pomona College for providing summer funding for me to go on this amazing researching experience through University of Maryland. I'm also very grateful to my host family and everyone for providing such amazing support through out my time in Guatemala.