Are transcription quizzes fair?

asked 2018-03-30 23:39:24 -0500

Suelli gravatar image

updated 2018-04-13 12:33:06 -0500

ksteimel gravatar image

I am taking a beginning phonetics course online, and our professor gives quizzes that drive me nuts. For each item, he will only accept one answer - the answer he considers is correct, and he is very picky. He has docked me for vowels and insertions that no matter how often I relisten to the items I still hear. Like / ^/ vs. schwa or an inserted n after the first vowel in "don'twanna" (He claimed there was none. I swear I heard one.) I'm one of the highest scoring students in the class, but that's because I figured out how to game his quizzes when we were still working at the word level. I started transcribing words as I thought he would expect them to be transcribed rather than what I heard. That worked fine for single word items, but now we have moved onto casual speech in phrases, and I'm having trouble again. Now that I've gotten feedback from the first phrase quiz, I can tell that he obviously tends not to hear noun sounds between vowels that I do hear (as in the contraction in " I don't wanna" or in "Whatchya"...

I believe transcription ultimately relies on perception, and, therefore, it cannot be purely objective. There has been research that has shown problems with the reliability and validity of transcription. I do think that transcription practice is important and that it can be helpful to get feedback from an experienced transcriber, but I think that our professor should acknowledge that more than one answer can often be plausible. I'm feeling really turned off, and I'm a language geek! I was really excited to learn phonetics. Can anyone make a case for his approach? Thanks!

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