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Transcription services: How do the pros turn speech to text so quickly?

Published on December 4th, 2018

If you have ever tried transcribing audio content into text, you will know how difficult it is to do both accurately and quickly. Professional transcribers hone their skills over years of training and experience, but they also have a few helping hands to help them get the job done so efficiently.

To help you understand what goes into every transcription project and the challenges pros face, we are going to look at the tools and skills professional transcribers need to turn speech into text so quickly.

What equipment does a transcriber need?

The first thing any professional transcriber is going to need is the right equipment to get the job done and this involves more than you might think. Generally speaking, it is better to record an audio (or video) of the dialogue you want transcribed, purely because this makes it easier to review and verify for accuracy.

Sometimes this is not possible, of course – for example, in the courtroom or certain journalistic settings. Although, these are highly niche scenarios where shorthand is used in place of regular English.

For the vast majority of professional transcription services, your language pros are going to use the following tools to transcript audio or video recordings:

  • A USB headset: A good set of noise-cancelling headphones to immerse transcribers in your content.
  • Transcription software: Allows transcribers to pause, rewind and slow down your content at the touch of a few keys – plus a range of other action depending on their choice of software.
  • A foot pedal: So transcribers can pause with their feet and keep their hands for, well… transcribing.
  • At text expander: Autocompletes certain words to save transcribers from typing out the same thing – particularly long words that are repeated many times.
  • Time tracking software: Records the amount of time it takes to transcribe your content (optional).
  • Dictionaries: Not only a regular dictionary, but access to all of the technical language specific to your industry and content (luckily, the internet has made this a lot easier).
  • Grammar and spell checking software: These tools are never perfect but they can save time in the reviewing and editing process.
  • File converters: So you can get your content in the format you need it.

There could be any number of other tools your transcriber uses to get the job done but these are the essentials almost everyone in the business uses for projects like these. Technology has improved significantly over the past decade – especially on the software side of things – but these tools are only ever as good as the person using them.

So what else does a professional transcriber need besides the technical tools?

The language skills required for transcription services

If you can listen, type and spell accurately, then you can transcribe audio into text – probably not very quickly, though. Any professional transcriber applying for a position at an agency like ours will need to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Comprehension skills: Speech is not always clearly spoken or recorded and comprehension skills in challenging situations are crucial.
  • Ability to focus: A transcriber needs to concentrate on the speaker and shut out all other distractions.
  • Typing skills: Fast and accurate typing skills are required as standard.
  • Shorthand: A solid grasp of shorthand to make transcribing faster and more accurate.
  • Multitasking skills: Listening, comprehending and typing at the same time requires a certain level of cognitive flexibility and control.
  • A strong short-term memory: Transcribers are constantly playing catch-up to real speech and a strong short memory helps them to keep typing.
  • Excellent language comprehension: Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, formal and informal speech – among other things.
  • Subject knowledge: A transcriber needs to understand the subject, context and related vocabulary of the topic covered in any event or recording.

For transcribers working with recordings, there is a certain amount of room for double-checking but transcribing events such as court cases or live conferences often mean transcribers need to get things right the first time around. Neither scenario is particularly easy to work in and it takes professional transcribers years to hone their skills.

Of course, we have working processes in place that make this easier for our transcribers and help them achieve 100% accuracy more quickly – but this does not take anything away from the skills they apply to every project.

If you need any help with and advice on transcription services, do not hesitate to contact our team of dedicated professionals.

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Posted on: December 4th, 2018