Starting Out: Introduction and Initial Challenges | #1

I just wrapped up my freshman year at Michigan, and I was lucky enough to participate in a research project through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.  It was through this program that I found out about an exciting summer opportunity, the Mcubed Scholars Program.  I will be working on an interdisciplinary research project as a research assistant while attending weekly seminars that aim to further research and professional skills.  Students in the program will also be contributing to a blog, much like this one.

The project I’m working on investigates hesitation phenomena (ums, uhs, silent pauses, and things of that nature) in Spanish speakers.  The research team I’m a part of consists of a fellow undergraduate student in the Mcubed Scholars Program, as well as three professors from the RLL, Psychology, and Linguistics departments.  Most of the work I will be doing is transcription and coding of oral production data, which is similar to the work I did on my UROP project during the academic year.

I’ve already been working for about a month on this project.  Already I’ve run into a few challenges.  For one, I’ve had to learn a new transcription software, called Praat.  The featured image above will give you an idea of what this program looks like.  I’m still learning the ropes, but have improved significantly over the course of a month.  Another challenge I hadn’t anticipated running into was having difficulty understanding different Spanish accents.  On my UROP project, I had gotten used to listening to and understanding the Peruvian dialect of those specific speakers.  On my current project though, I had to get used to the characteristics of the speech of Peninsular Spanish (Spanish spoken in Spain).  One thing I’ve noticed though is that by listening to all these different dialects, my comprehension of Spanish is improving.

Hopefully by my next post, my partner and I will have received some oral production data to code and transcribe from our mentor, who is carrying out an experiment in Spain.

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