Recipe: A Good-Enough Way to Record Translations Over Long Distance

Have you ever wanted to get help translating something but the family member or friend you would like to interview lives far away? It would help if you could record him or her, but what is the best way to do that? What if your family member or friend is not very tech-savvy or doesn’t have a computer? Recently, I came across an app that can help solve this task, particularly for people who are not tech-savvy because you can simply make the recording over a phone call.

But what about the quality? First, some food for thought. What makes YouTube different from premium cable? There are many differences but consider the quantity. YouTube has over a billion users, and most of the videos are likely homemade amateur videos. The quality is less than what you can find on premium cable, but that’s ok. This phenomenon is not just on YouTube.  Facebook, for example, helps us communicate in greater quantities even if the quality varies. I am saying this because interviewing someone over the phone will have less quality, but that is OK. Here is another concept. There is always the option to make the recordings better in the future. It’s called the continual improvement process. I would rather interview and record someone today (with their permission and blessing of course) instead of waiting for the perfect time to get a high-quality recording.

So, I would like to propose a method for getting good-enough recordings. Here is how it works:

What you will need:

There are several apps for recording calls, but I prefer TapeACall because it records using a third-party service, so it won’t use your phone’s memory. I also think it will give you a more consistent recording experience.


  1. Call the person via TapeACall. Make sure they know that you plan to record them (out of courtesy) then start recording (see TapeACall for instructions).
  2. After the call is finished, there are two ways to retrieve the recording from TapeACall:
    • Email the recording to yourself (I prefer this option),
    • Or you can copy the recording directly to your phone, and then copy the recording to your computer.
  3. Finally, use Audacity to edit a copy of the audio. You can cut out the unrelated parts of the conversation (like “how was your day”), and keep the rest for practice. Remember to make a copy, and edit the copy, so that you will still have the original recording for future reference.

This could be a great way to interview a family member or a friend over the phone. To keep the discussion going you might want to come up with an interviewing strategy. For example, check out the “How Do I Say…?” workbook. Using that workbook as a guide, you can then record your interview, so that you will have something to listen to and learn from after the interview is finished.

Author: Biagio Arobba

Much of my interests in community and arts projects come from personal experiences: Native American languages (my grandparents spoke the Lakota language), star quilt making, diet and exercise, and food computers. It all fits in a practical yet holistic viewpoint of the world.

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