One of the most common misconceptions about transcription is that it is simply typing; that it consists of listening to an audio recording and typing the words directly into a document, with little processing or mental acuity required. At TTP we wish it was that easy! Here are seven of the most common myths about transcription, completely busted!
1. Audio files are always sharp and readily transcribed.
Unfortunately, audio recordings are rarely ideal. Transcriptionists struggle with issues such as the quality of the recorder itself, background noise, accents, mumbling, multiple speakers talking over one another, and a myriad of other complicating factors. An experienced professional will often spend hours of their transcription time just trying to decipher what was said.
2. It’s easy to distinguish between different speakers.
For those who have not transcribed an audio recording with multiple speakers it may be hard to imagine just how difficult it is to distinguish between speakers, especially when their voices are electronically recorded and unfamiliar to you. The slightest interference with the sound can make it almost impossible to identify the speaker. Sometimes speakers’ voices are very similar as well, and a lack of contextual information can make things much harder.
3. You don’t need to concentrate very hard as you are simply typing verbatim.
Transcription requires intense concentration and undivided attention, often for hours on end. It’s not simply listening, but hearing, deciphering, and accurately converting language from one medium to another. On the fly, a transcriptionist constantly makes decisions about which words to type, how to spell each word correctly, how to punctuate sentences, and about other formatting conventions. This is an exceptionally challenging and skilled task.
4. Transcription time equals the length of the audio recording itself.
The length of time required to produce a complete transcription is always greater than that of the actual recording due to audio stoppages to allow sufficient time for typing, rewinding to decipher a word/phrase or confirm its accuracy, document formatting, spell checks, proofreading and review, Google research, et cetera. In the case of a perfectly clear recording, transcription can easily take three times as long as the recording, and double that again if the audio quality is poor, there are multiple speakers, foreign accents, unfamiliar terminology, or if the transcriptionist is inexperienced.
5. A transcriptionist only needs to hear a recording once to transcribe it.
Transcriptionists easily spend half of their time or more rewinding recordings to listen for the correct term and/or context surrounding it. This is made far worse with a poor quality recording or with any of the complicating factors mentioned earlier.
6. Proofreading is fast and simple.
Proofreaders face the same difficulties and potential delays as transcriptionists, affected by the sound quality of the recording, with the added pressure of being the final set of eyes and ears. A proofreader will often press the rewind button countless times just to decipher that last pesky word!
7. Formatting the document for each client is straight-forward.
Although TTP has a standard document format, clients’ requirements vary. Medical and legal transcriptions often have an entirely different format that is unique to the client. Some of these are quite complex with numbering systems, line breaks, headers and footers, et cetera. Formatting a Word document to the exact specifications required for each client takes its own time, independently of the transcription itself.
Beginning an audio transcription is akin to finding your way around in the dark with sound as your only guide. There are no visual cues about the identity of the speaker, and an independent transcriptionist rarely has sufficient contextual knowledge about the organisation or its processes to complete their transcription without researching information on the Internet. Transcriptionists must be skilled in language, typing, and specialised terminology; be excellent listeners with unfailing attention to detail, and able to cope under pressure and with short deadlines. It’s no exaggeration to claim that our hard working transcriptionists at TTP are nothing short of miracle workers!
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