Have you ever considered a part-time job for a bit of additional earnings? Looking for a job where you can work from home? Have you considered transcribing? Here are some valuable insights and helpful tips from our interview with Karen, a professional and experienced transcriber with Way With Words.
Our transcriber story starts with an interview with Karen – a top-class transcriber who works for Way With Words.
Whilst my basic Turkish is now quite good and is my default language when I’m up in town, I’m far from fluent and still learning. The way Turkish works when translated into English can also be quite hilarious. In Turkish you don’t switch things on and off, you open and close them. This leads to friends saying things like, ‘I went home last night and opened the television’.
When I first moved to Turkey nearly six years ago now–and I won’t go into the reasons why I left a very well-paid job, penthouse flat and company car, or we’ll be here all day–the first thing I had to come to terms with was the culture difference. Living in a tourist resort also means I meet Turks from all over this vast country and with different cultural and social influences. It sure makes life interesting! I live in a two bed apartment in a coastal village popular with British tourists called Altınkum, which means golden sand. On a map it’s about half way down the Aegean coast of Turkey and the nearest big cities are Aydın and Izmir; the latter has an international airport, as does Bodrum, which is about an hour and a half away by car to the south.
In general and in my experience Turkish people are very friendly and hospitable. I learnt very early on that if I was visiting a neighbour’s house for whatever reason, not to eat for about six hours beforehand. The first thing they do when you arrive is turn the hob on and fill the çaydanlık [Turkish teapot] to make çay, which is always served in delicate little glasses, without milk but sweetened with sugar to taste, and is an essential part of life here. Next, the lady of the house will start baking or cooking if she hasn’t anything already prepared and you will not be allowed to leave until you have stuffed yourself senseless. It’s considered a slight on the host’s cooking skills to refuse seconds here so you have to keep going until you turn green.
Turkish people are also very garrulous–the men more so than the women–and Lord help you if you bump into someone you know when you’re in a rush. They seem to have all the time in the world, while I’m usually dashing over the road to the shop for a carton of milk while downloading a file and haven’t time to stop for 20 minutes to discuss the weather, what I’ve been up to or granny’s hernia operation. I had to learn the Turkish for ‘sorry, but I’m in a bit of a hurry’ very early on!
That brings me on to the next learning curve – the language. Turkish is a beautiful language and I find it rather melodic, due in the most part to something called ‘vowel harmony’. There are eight vowels in Turkish as opposed to our five and as it’s an agglutinating language suffixes for everything from personal pronouns to prepositions of place are added to the stem of the word. The vowels in them have to match up, which does make it sound almost musical.
Whilst my basic Turkish is now quite good and is my default language when I’m up in town, I’m far from fluent and still learning. The way Turkish works when translated into English can also be quite hilarious. In Turkish you don’t switch things on and off, you open and close them. This leads to friends saying things like, ‘I went home last night and opened the television’. I had visions of him there with a screwdriver until I twigged what he meant. Or, ‘I tried to ring you last night but your phone was closed’. I’ve got used to it now but the strange thing is I find myself saying things like that to my English friends–go figure!
I always keep my eyes open for shop signs as well, where some enterprising merchant has decided to advertise whatever he’s selling in English as well as Turkish. You read it and think, I sort of get what you mean, but it’s not quite right and sometimes comically so.
My all-time favourite was the one outside one of the banks here: ‘due to renovations the entrance is now up the backside of the bank’. I was on the floor, but that’s just the way Turkish works sometimes when it’s translated into English. In Turkish the bank ‘owns’ its front, back and sides. A friend of mine was stopped in her tracks by a man she thought she recognised and who then went on to say, ‘you don’t recognise me, do you? I am the barber from your behind’. What he meant was his barber shop is behind her apartment building.
Although I do miss the UK sometimes and friends and family, obviously, I love my lifestyle here despite the fact that you sometimes feel as if you’ve gone back 20 years. The power goes off here more often than it should, which is hugely frustrating, nearly every time it rains or there is a thunderstorm.
Also Turkish people are not hardwired to be punctual for anything and are painfully slow at all things bureaucratic, so it can take a while to sort anything out. If I arrange to meet anyone Turkish and they give a time, I always ask, is that English time or Turkish time, because the two can differ by at least two hours. And there’s no point losing your rag with them as they don’t understand what your problem is–I’m here now, aren’t I?
I’ve been working for Way With Words now for about three years and it’s an ideal way to earn my living. I really enjoy transcription work–most of the time! Well, we all get those files every now and then that have you ripping your hair out. And it never fails to amaze me how much I’ve learnt about a vast array of different subjects, some more useful than others!
My all time favourite was an interview I transcribed where a quantum physics professor was being interviewed about his subject. I may not have understood everything he was talking about–Schrödinger’s cat, anyone? – but it was fascinating all the same.
During the summer season here in Altinkum the weather is hot and sunny for nigh on eight months, so hordes of tourists–British, other European, Turkish–descend and the place is party town from May until the end of October. We’re into November now and the season is officially over for another year–less people, less traffic on the roads, less noise in general– but as there is still an expat community here (although sadly diminishing, for a multitude of reasons) some of the bars and restaurants stay open all year round now. Winters can be quite mild, although often very wet, and on a lovely sunny day even in January and February on a walk down the seafront promenade you will see people sitting at tables in the sun enjoying an Efes–the local beer–or a coffee. You can’t beat it.
The cost of living here in my transcriber life is still way less than in Europe. I can do my weekly shop for around £12, the evil weed still costs around £2 for a packet of 20 and a bottle of local beer is about the same. There are two markets in town, a farmers’ one on a Wednesday and the bigger one on Saturdays and many a bargain can be had for the enterprising shopper.
Fruit and vegetables are so cheap I’m only limited by the weight I’m able to carry home on the dolmuş. The dolmuş are the local minibuses that zip up and down from town to Altınkum and back and to and from the surrounding villages and are so cheap to use it’s unreal. The word dolmuş actually means stuffed, and believe me, they are. They will cram as many people on them as is humanly possible and travelling on them in the height of summer can be a rather unpleasant experience, but they’re still the best and easiest way to travel short distances and being sans car, I use them all the time.
I have no plans to return to the UK other than for holidays for the foreseeable future and still have many places in this country I’d love to visit–time and finances permitting. I’ve driven up to Ankara and then across to the west coast and back down to Altınkum and spent five days in Istanbul Christmas before last–what an amazing city that is. The architecture there is breathtaking. There are plenty more places on my list, not least the eastern part of Turkey which looks beautiful on film and is home to the country’s Kurdish population. Apparently Europeans are still very much a novelty in that part of the world, so it would make an interesting trip.
When I was packing my stuff away for storage before I moved out here I remember thinking, you’ll be unpacking all this again in six months’ time, girl. Well, nearly six years later I’m still here and whilst I’m not as well off financially as I was back home, I wouldn’t swap with my former work colleagues for anything. I don’t envy them sitting on the M62 in traffic jams for hours every day and as I’ve got used to the slower pace of life here I’m not sure I’d cope with the frenetic lives people seem to lead in the UK any more. Here’s hoping I’m still here in another six years, still enjoying life and still plonking away for Way With Words in my transcriber life!