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Written by Montserrat González

Montserrat is a professional translator who likes to read and write fictional stories. There's nothing she enjoys more than spending time with her friends and family.

September 23, 2020

Transcription: a Simple Task or a Challenge?

One of the services offered by many translation agencies is transcription, which is to convert an audio or video into written text. Transcription can be performed from a simple audio file or a whole video.

 

In the best scenario, one or more people will be heard speaking clearly and in the same language, one at a time and in a quiet way, which makes the task of the transcriber easier to perform. Although this would be the ideal scenario, it does not always happens that way.

Time Stamps are usually used in the translation of multimedia material to indicate the precise moment in which everything was said. Translators often include clarifications of what is happening or what is heard in the background, such as laughter, cough, noise, music or background interference, among others.

 

What Are the Most Common Challenges For a Transcriber?

The main challenge often is background noise, either the sound of traffic, other people talking and screaming in the background, strong wind or any sound that competes with the main voices of the audio. This delays the time transcribing takes. In extreme cases, when it is impossible to comprehend a part of the audio, the transcriber will write [inaudible] or [unintelligible].

Another challenge often present in transcribing tasks are voices in other languages. Sometimes, people who speak other languages participate in the conversation. For instance, a person speaking language A interviews or reports something to a person speaking language B, and there is an interpreter translating for the two of them. For these types of transcripts, you will need transcribers who speak all needed languages.

For many linguists, the greatest challenge to face is the accent of speakers or even the jargon used. Others think the greatest challenge is the speed of conversations or voice volume. The faster you talk, the more difficult it becomes to transcribe. The same is true when the speaker’s voice is hard to hear, even if you raise the volume of your headphones, this will hinder comprehension.

 

Tips To Deal With These Difficulties

  • Knowing the context can be quite favorable to be able to carry out the transcription. By using association it is easier to identify the words that are not very clear due to the accent of a person, the speed he uses to speak or low voice tone.
  • If you have stumbled upon a word that is hard to understand, go a little further in the audio to see if you can decipher it by context.
  • Listen each sentence several times to make sure you have written the transcription properly.
  • And at the end, listen to the full audio again while reading the text to correct any possible mistake.

Achieving mastery in the transcription process is not an easy task, but the practice makes the master, and I assure you that the more you practice the easier it will become as time goes by.

 

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