How-to: Interview process

Be a friend to your interviewee. They will certainly share their stories with you.

Be a friend to your interviewee. They will certainly share their stories with you.

It take years to capture the best emotion in an interview but you can master some of the basic gestures that will let you document really valuable information in your audio/video. Before you start the interview, spend some time in engaging the interviewee in a friendly manner. Ask about themselves, what they ate today and so on just like a friend. And explain why you are interviewing them and how it will be valuable to preserve their language. Some people get intimidated by knowing that their voice/video is going to be public. But explain it to them how they are contributing to preserve their language in a form that their future generation can also access. Language are changing rapidly because of many external mediums. The best way to preserve that is to record and make available for others. Share the fact how at least one language is dying in every two weeks. Below are a set of things you need to ask in whichever language you are interviewing. Question #1 to 10 are mandatory, and the remaining are optional. Read the below to the interviewee right before the interview (you can modify it appropriate and even translate in whichever language you speak to them):

Hi, My name is XYZ. I'm calling from THE PLACE YOU'RE CALLING FROM to document a few details about your language "LANGUAGE NAME" (optional: for our project PROJECT NAME) so that the valuable knowledge of your language get recorded in an accessible form. Based on the form that you filled up, I am recording this call. This interview will be for about 30 mins. I will upload the recorded interview publicly under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license called CC-BY-SA 4.0. This license allows anyone to use, share, and modify the content even for commercial reproduction. Can I have your permission to proceed?

Ask the following questions if they allow you to proceed:

  1. Can you pronounce your name the way you’d do in your native language/mother tongue?
  2. Where you were born? (skip if they’re not comfortable)
  3. What games did you play as a child? Can you share little about those games?
  4. We all have our grandma stories? (with some curiosity in your face) Can you tell me one that you would have listened as a kid from your grandparents/someone elderly? (nod appropriately and show your emotions while listening to their stories—smile or frown but do not make any noise as we want only their voice to be recorded.)
  5. (with smile in your face) Who doesn’t like songs even though not everyone is a great singer. Your language must have many songs. Would you mind singing one for me? (same gestures as above)
  6. Did you visit a local fair with friends and family as a kid? Can you share your experience?
  7. Imaging I cannot see anything. Can you explain me in words all the activities that you’d do from daybreak until you go to bed?
  8. What’s your favorite traditional food? How is it prepared? (again react to them while listening with curiosity in your face, nod appropriately)
  9. Can you tell some words in your language? Maybe things that you use everyday?
  10. If I learn your language (if you yourself are not a native speaker), how do I greet a guest in the house, talk with them or offer them some food? if you speak the same language that they also speak Can you act how you’d welcome a guest to your home and explain me the meaning of each of the greetings? (act as the guest and ask meaning of all the greeting/conversation phrases they say)


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