1.3 Audio Recordings

Here are some events found on recordings in language documentation corpora:


  • Storytelling: Stories, both traditional and anecdotal.
  • Conversations: Dialogue between two or more speakers.
  • Interviews:  Interviews of community members on traditional practices, experiences of language in the past and language currently.
  • Speeches: More formal speech, prepared for public speaking.
  • Elicitation: Answers to prompts made by the documenter, such as translations for specific sentences or reciting word lists.
  • Singing: Songs, typically folk songs, sung in the target language.

Equipment for High-Quality Recording

While we cannot always reach our goals, we attempt to make recordings that are optimal for analysis, revitalization, and preservation.  Take a look at the following guides and think about recommendations for best practices for video and audio recording for language documentation, paying attention to:

  • portability and durability of recording devices
  • recording formats 
  • battery life and reliability
  • reducing background noise like loud insect sounds, overhead fans, or strong wind
  • microphones suitable for varied situations (one speaker, conversations, large hall performances)
  • external versus internal microphones
  • ensuring  the stability of the device, and consistency in the quality of the recording by using a tripod with your phone or other devices. 


Vermont Folklife Center:  https://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org/field-recording-in-the-digital-age

Queensland Studies Authority: https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p_10/snr_atsi_languages_11_documenting.pdf


Recording Remotely

It is not always feasible to record in person. In these situations, there are still options for collecting recordings remotely.

Multiple online virtual meeting applications allow for recorded sessions.  One consideration with these applications is that audio could be unclear if users are working with an older laptop or inexpensive computer microphone. Recording virtually is not ideal for research focused on phonetics. Overall, though, recording with a virtual meeting application seems to be working as an emergency measure for continuity of language documentation.  

You can read more about this here:  https://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org/remote-recording

There are several options for virtual meeting platforms that allow recording.  We have experience in using Zoom Conferencing and are currently experimenting with the messaging app WhatsApp for discussion of language forms and recording of audio, video, photographs, and text.