How to Make Audio Transcription Work for You
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How to Make Audio Transcription Work for You

If you’re considering the use of a transcription service, you’re already aware of some of the benefits audio transcription can offer. Medical and legal professionals recognized long ago that transcription is an essential part of day-to-day operations and frees up valuable time.

Professors have discovered how having lectures and some class discussions written out and distributed to students can act as an invaluable teaching aid. For journalists, the time saved from hiring a transcriptionist for lengthy interviews can result in an increase in productivity.

So what’s holding you back?

Since choosing an audio transcriptionist isn’t quite as cut and dried as, say, hiring someone to fix your sink, let’s explore some of the intricacies of the art of transcription in order to understand how to best take advantage of audio transcription – and also uncover some uses that you might not have considered.

Speech Recognition Software Doesn’t Recognize My Speech

If you’ve ever used Google Translate for a quick fix to catch the meaning of something you want to read online, you know how bizarre and confusing the resulting translation can often be. Computer programs designed for transcription, like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, can sometimes result in similar problems. See our comparison of Google Translate vs human translation here.

The intuitive subtleties of human speech make it surprisingly (and often comically) easy to misrepresent. Though computer techs and software developers are working furiously to develop programs that can accurately understand and interpret speech, the creepy reality of computers that are able to accurately transcribe the way we talk is not yet upon us.

That’s because so much having to do with how we understand what we hear is based on the context in which things are said. Picking up on pitch changes, vocal inflections, and referring to a shared common knowledge all come into play. Anyone who can figure out how to program a computer to realistically interpret all of those subtle cues is very likely a time travelling alien. Proceed with caution.

The Last Transcriptionist I Used Misinterpreted My Idioms

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re in conversation with someone from another country and, although they speak English flawlessly, there seems to be a disconnect? Jokes keep falling flat. Sarcasm is lost. A certain look on your companion’s face lets you know that something you just said was taken in a way that you did not at all intend. To minimize misunderstanding, if you’re in the United States, hiring U.S.-based transcriptionists makes the most sense. That way, your colloquialisms will be understood, your references to 80’s hair metal will deliver the intended punch lines, and your hip slang won't come across as insane rambling.

But All My Sermons Are Available on Audio Cassette

We’ve talked a bit about what goes into high-quality transcription; here's an example of one of its lesser-known uses: Since audio recording first became popularized, churches all over the world have been recording their sermons every week.

But, while having closets packed with tapes or hard drives full of .wav files makes it possible in theory to find and review past sermons, the reality is that listening through an entire audio file in search of the moment you’re looking for is wildly inefficient.

On the other hand, audio transcriptions of sermons are practical and wonderfully useful. First of all, written transcripts are massively easier to search through than audio files, whether captured on cassette, CD or MP3. Moreover, with written transcriptions, parishioners can study sermons on their own time. Written transcripts are also easy to catalogue and organize – they take up a lot less physical space than tapes or CDs and less computer hard drive space than digital recordings. Hallelujah!

Isn’t a YouTube Video Good Enough?

Say you happened upon a video on how to apply eyeliner in the style of 60s girl group the Ronettes. You found it interesting but not really relevant to your life at that moment. A month later, you’ve been invited to a retro-themed dance party, so you head to YouTube to track down the footage. You remember a few details about the video, but the cat-eye tutorial you seek isn't coming up, no matter how you refine your search.

If that video had included an audio transcription of the tutorial, you would be painted up and working on your beehive in less than the time it takes to scour your browser history. This totally hypothetical scenario illustrates a valuable, and occasionally overlooked, use for audio transcription.

If you’re going to the trouble of uploading videos to YouTube, you want to make sure that people who are in search of the unique information you have to offer will be able to find it. Search engines aren’t yet advanced enough to dig through or understand the audio of your videos. With audio transcription, you can literally spell it out for them. All transcription is not equal. Choose the wrong service or method and you could wind up with something that reads like a Surrealist poem. An excellent transcription service can save you loads of time and quite easily end up paying for itself.