Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Patience Of Job



That would be job, as in work, not Job, as in the guy with all the boils.

This is an amazingly busy week for us here at Marketing Messages. We are recording and editing 10 or 11 scripts of some 40,000 words each. That's what we do, record and edit scripts. As well as being a voice talent, I am also an audio engineer and producer. There are three of us on-staff working on this particular job.

Now, the recording process for each of these scripts takes about three hours. The editing of same, into audio suitable for playback over the telephone - which is what the great majority of our work comprises - takes about the same length of time. In other words, each of these scripts is close to a full day of work for one person. They are in addition to other scheduled work due out this week. So, 10 or 11 scripts, of 40,000 words each, along with the other jobs on the board, fairly much fills the week for us - and then some.

Oh, did I mention that the scripts are in Punjabi, Urdu, Gujerati, Tamil, Kannada, and other Indian languages?

Yup.

OK. Can you speak Gujerati? Probably not. Neither can I. However, even though I don't speak Gujerati, I have to record and edit Gujerati voice files. I have approximately 45 script pages of Gujerati recordings which I must chop up into sentences and small paragraphs today. And I don't understand a single blessed word of it.

A great deal of my job consists of recording languages other than English and then editing those recordings into the component pieces that a client needs. I won't give you a sample of the Gujerati, the reason being that I'm not sure how this somewhat new client would feel about issues of confidentiality and such. These scripts are connected with medical trials, and publishing them may somehow compromise those trials. However, as an example, I'll show you a page of script from a recent recording session involving Mandarin Chinese.

Annie, our Mandarin talent, is a very nice woman and a professional; almost always gets it right on the first take. At least, she seems to; I can't understand a word of what she says while she's recording.

Annie also speaks English, so it isn't as though I have the added aggravation of having to convey anything via sign language. All of our voice talents who record in languages other than English also speak English. It humbles me severely dealing with them. I'm amazingly inept at learning languages. I flunked Spanish three times in high school, as well as Latin twice and French once. Oh, I picked up a phrase here or there, but nothing very useful. For instance, I can make my need for aspirin known by saying...

"Je mal a la tete."

Which literally, in French, means, "I have a sick head". Indeed. I also know how to ask someone if they wish to go to bed with me, but I learned that from a Labelle song.

Anyway, all of these voice talents have learned my language and I know almost nothing of theirs. And I'm the producer in charge of the recording sessions. What a country!

I don't particularly enjoy working with our foreign-language voice talents. It isn't anything against them personally. They are almost uniformly pleasant to be with and nice. It's just that it's tremendously brain-wearying to listen to (what is to my ignorant ear) unintelligible gibberish for 2 or 3 hours while attempting to make notes on my copy of the script that will help me to edit it into a coherent work after the recording part is done.

Here is a bit of Annie's recent script for your viewing pleasure. You can click onto it and enlarge it. If you can't see it easily, please do that.



You'll notice my notes (or note my notices) on the script. I am reminding myself what the numbers 1, 2, and 3 sound like in Mandarin. Also, that whenever I see a particular character, it sounds like "Loo" - although when I asked Annie about the translation of that character, she gave it a stand-alone pronunciation that sounded more like "Jzoo". Sounds like "Loo" to my western ear when it is part of a sentence, so that's how I have to note it.

Being in possession of this sparse bit of information, I can more-or-less find my way around. You'll see that there is a grouping of 5 or 6 sentences where the "Loo" character is the second one in the sentence. When I get to that part of the script, I'll be able to chop it up pretty easily.

It's hard, but it's not the impossible task it might appear to be at first. Even though some of the inflection in Chinese is dissimilar to English, the overall sound of a sentence is not that far off. When someone gets to a period, the inflection is more-or-less downwards and a question sounds like a question. It takes a great deal of concentration, however, and it tires the brain.

With the Indian language script we're currently working on, there is the added aggravation - as with the Mandarin above - of most of these languages not being written in the standard "A, B, C" alphabet we English speakers are used to. The Arabic alphabet is used for Urdu, for instance, and it looks like nothing more than random squiggles to me. I'm illiterate, in a way. It's like someone who doesn't read music trying to make sense of musical notation. But, I can do the job. That's why I get the medium-sized bucks.

It's also why this will be the last entry here until next Tuesday. I am going home brain-dead every night this week. I thank God that I have a three-day weekend coming up. It should be barely enough to refresh my brain from the tapioca-like state it will no doubt be in by Friday.

I will hunt down and kill the first one of you who leaves a comment in Bahasa.

Soon, with more better stuff.


45 comments:

Janet said...

Wow. I'm so impressed. I would have crawled whimpering into a corner if someone handed me that. French is the only thing I learned well enough to read, but I can't anymore, and I NEVER understood it spoken. I remember some of my Latin declensions from 8th grade, but obviously no one uses those.
Go take an aspirin.
Merde. See you next week.

jill said...

my head hurts just reading what you have to do. i have NO ear for languages -- kudos to you for being able to figure it out.

see you soon!

Karen said...

I grew up with a grandmother who only spoke Portuguese. All of the other grandkids would speak to her in English and she'd answer in Portuguese. Everybody understood everybody else, except me. Whenever my grandmother would say speak to me, I'd look at my sister and say "What'd she say?" My sister would translate and then I would answer my grandmother. Sad, because I never really had a conversation with her, but relaying this only to say how bad I am at any language other than English. I'm tired.

Katney said...

Yikes!

(I could transliterate that into the Cyrilic alphabet, but I won't for your sake.) We were in Russia for four weeks and it was three before we could identify a bus or subway which would take us where we needed to go. And that alphabet is phonetic and has only 31 letters.

When I was in India I asked about the alphabet and was told there were 255 letters. More Yikes.

I have found, though, that learning to say hello, good-by, please and thank you, and where is the bathroom? serves pretty well in traveling if you point a lot.

Uncle Jim said...

Why not put an audio file with you speaking some obscure language for us so we cal really make fun of you?

lime said...

bolehkah anda percaya saya tahu beberapa fasa-fasa dalam Urdu dan saya dengan sengaja mandarin chinese untuk setahun? ia adalah semuanya benar. tetapi i'd masih menjadi bantuan kurang dalam kerja anda.

it's true. every word of it. and since it's in malay, not bahasa i should be safe from harm.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I am amazed that you can do this for a living - How exciting, and yet it must be exhausting - I speak three languages - all European, and got worn out whenever I had to do some simultaneous translation informally - so understand your need to lie down in a darkened room - I have even more respect (if that were possible) for you, Suldog, and we look forward to your rested and erudite return!

Moannie said...

If it were possible for my admiration to mount further, it would be doing so right now. Not only do you write the funniest and most challenging blogs on the blogland planet, but you also do THAT job. Chapeau bas!

Suldog said...

OK, I saw Lime's comment and had to find out. Here's the translation, from an on-line free service (so probably very rough.)

"Can you believe I know a few Urdu's inside phases and I deliberately mandarin chinese for a year? it is all of it true. but i'd still being shallow help your work."

Easy for you to say, Lime.

Suza said...

¡Ay, caramba! J’ai mal à la tête just reading this...

Jane! said...

Crap! I can't even SAY Gugerati.... or whatever. The whole process you described makes my brain cells go soupy. You are a talented man to manage all that!

Buck said...

I've found my French returns in quite usable form after the third bottle of wine has been consumed. But I don't suppose that would do in the workplace, aside from the fact it helps to have had working knowledge of the language in the past, as well.

You consistently amaze me, Jim. And MUCH more so today.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Lime threw the gauntlet and you picked it up pigeon handedly!! well done you...!! relax at the weekend...have fun

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Good grief, Suldog. Honey, you need something stronger than aspirin... or maybe not!

Chuck said...

Вы делаете безупречную работу!

CrazyCath said...

ROTFL at Lime's comment. And your response.

I would crawl into a corner and hide too....

T said...

You are one very talented man, Suldog. Just amazing. I agree, I think you need more then aspirin, just reading all that you do gave me a headache.

Hope you can get plenty of rest.

Hilary said...

Somehow, your job reminds me of those Cryptograms that I used to love doing in puzzle magazines. I'm very impressed.

Enjoy that weekend. :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Well, now we know why Michelle (Surly Writer) gifted you with that award none of us can pronounce. You speak all dem ferrin languages! :)

Christina LMT said...

Na, wirst Du mich ermorden wenn ich auf Deutsch schreibe? Hoffentlich nicht!

Wow. I'm in awe, yet I also cringe when thinking of the headaches your work is causing you! Get that rest, you'll deserve it! Enjoy your weekend.

Ericka said...

lol. i have no idea how you do that. i can't handle english. but...

dengan penuh harapan menjadwalkan akan lampau dengan cepat untuk engkau ini minggu.

Carolina said...

Got a headache just reading your post. Took a pause and listened to your beautiful and soothing voice, gave me enough energy to finish reading it. Thanks for the interesting insight in your job.
Have a nice long weekend. Enjoy.

i beati said...

Apres cette poste,J'ai mal a la tete!!

Shrinky said...

Buckets of respect from my corner Jim, little wonder you are so off-the-wall weir- um, original (wink).

Seriously, my brain hurts just reading this, it must take painstaking concentration and an enourmous amount of creative intuition to actually get this right. Hope the work load soon eases up some, so you can come out to play again.

Suldog said...

OK, wise guys. At least one of you must be hunted down and killed. I'm pretty sure it's Chuck. In any case, he's first.

Nana Net said...

Ok, just go ahead and shoot me. Cause I sure don't know any other language but English! But reading all about your Job, sure left me amazed. You truly are one talented man Suldog. And I surely would go home with a migraine if I had to do what all you do everyday.
Well, get plenty of rest and enjoy the 3 days off with your wife. Take care.

Marty said...

A job like that would give me boils... actually I am a bit envious - fantastic post, really!

DJ Big Mick said...

Wow.. you're making me nostalgic for the old days when I used to do that same thing... Although we used to use that batch loading program and the talent would record the phrase, tell you if it was correct and you'd move to the next. I don't remember having to edit much in a foreign language.
Also, isn't it funny how a person's voice can change when speaking different languages? I remember one woman whose voice dropped an octave when she spoke her native Spanish! Good luck and congrats on landing a big project like that in this economy!

GreenJello said...

Your job actually sounds interesting to me. But then again, I'm a geek.

Jenn said...

Ouch, my tiny brain can not handle this. I hope your week goes smooth even if it is long and have a fantastic long weekend!

Woman in a Window said...

Holy crap! What a weird, weird way to approach something. Ya, my head hurts too, just imagining.

Daniel said...

I was born in Romania and my parents made sure we retained the Romanian language even after we came to the US by speaking it to us at home.

We would speak English all day at school but once we got back home my parents were firm on keeping the old language.

I sometimes have to translate at the church I attend because the community I am a part of still speaks the language.

Michelle H. said...

Hmm, I would go and get this comment translated in Bahasa but I'm still recovering from the tongue-lashing you gave me earlier this week. I still need to see a sheng for my PD!

Gennasus said...

Hey! What happens to Pointy? I was just getting into that (beautifully narrated) story when it faded out. How's he getting on? I'm very worried about him!

connie/mom said...

Do you remember when we were in Paris and had been studying French before we left? The only phrase I had picked up was "J’ai mal à la tête". When we got into the cab at the airport and were on our way to the hotel I said it and the very nice cab driver offered me an aspiring. He also started talking to me in French but I, of course, couldn't understand a word.

p.s. Hi, Uncle Jim.

connie/mom (again) said...

Aspiring? Sounds like Popeye got into the act somewhere along the line. (Or did he hand me a book called "French for the Aspiring Tourist")

Gennasus said...

Thanks for giving me the link. Being a newcomer to your very entertaining blog, I have skimmed but not read the entire content......my husband thinks this computer gets more than enough of my time as it is!
I'm so glad that Pointy's story had a happy ending and I'll never look down my nose at a poinsettia again

Judi FitzPatrick said...

I feel exactly as jill stated - my head hurts from reading what is involved in this - wow! Best wishes for a smooth execution.

For teaching about a job that was previously unknown, at least to me, I'll leave you with this:
go raibh maith agat!
Síochán, Judi

david mcmahon said...

Nomoshkar, dada (G'day, elder brother) and Namaste, ji (G'day, person to be respected) - I speak a few languages, so we might work together soon!

Meredith Teagarden(The Things we Carried) said...

Ni hao, peng you! (hello friend)

I have been studying Mandarin for several years and it is really a tough language. There are many Chinese words that can be said four different ways and the tone will change the entire meaning. Here is one example of a word you may appreciate:
Baba in first tone (straight, flat, no rise or fall)=Daddy....
baba in 3rd tone (it starts low, drops lower and rises back up)=poop
Your job sounds very intriguing and mind boggling! I can't imagine...

Jeni said...

Woo Hoo! Congrats Jim -you got a mention for Post of the Day over at David's place. Good job, Buddy!

Jazz said...

Ouch. My brain hurts just reading that. And you'll note I was nice.

Je n'ai pas laissé le commentaire en fraçais.

Woops. I just couldn't resist.

Sandi McBride said...

I have a headache just reading about your job...you not only have the Patience of Job, you have the intellect of Einstein!
Sandi

Sandi McBride said...

I just saw you made Post of the Day!
WOOHOO!!!
Sandi

Suldog said...

Jim - But, Sandi, Einstein is dead!

Sandi - Yeah, I know.

:-)