Transcription, as used in the literary community, refers to the process of turning an audio file into a written one. The audio file may contain text spoken by just one person or by multiple people. Video files can also require transcription.
There are often times when a professional translator is asked to transcribe a file prior to translating it. Some translators are comfortable with undertaking both tasks, but others prefer to use the services of a transcriptionist, to ensure that the job is completed flawlessly and efficiently.
There’s certainly an art to transcription that means it is not suitable for all translators to undertake the task themselves. Professional transcriptionists tend to be exceptionally fast typists and possess extremely well honed listening skills. Neither of these qualities is essential to the modern professional translator’s career and those who lack these abilities should be wary of undertaking their own transcription, as making a mistake while transcribing will then be reflected in the translated copy.
Just as with proofreading, transcription is a skill that many of those who love language are able to develop if they are willing to commit time and energy to doing so. It’s an inexpensive skill to develop as the requirements are fairly minimal – a good foot pedal, which allows you to stop, start and rewind the audio file, plus a simple software programme is all that you need to get started. Then it’s just a case of practising and gaining in speed.
This low setup cost has encouraged many professional translators to try their hand at transcription and for many it provides an excellent alternative income stream, along with variety of workload. For others, though, transcription does not come naturally or perhaps doesn’t have the same appeal as translating lengthy documents. It’s very much a matter of personal preference.
For those who do enjoy transcription, plentiful work is available online, both through individual contracting sites such as oDesk and through dedicated transcription agencies. Rates of pay vary enormously and the competition is fierce, but transcriptionists who build up a reputation for accuracy and speed can fairly quickly establish a regular client base.
This combination of accuracy and speed is an essential part of transcription work. The time taken to transcribe one audio hour can vary from two hours to around eight hours, depending on the complexity of the file, with both subject matter and number of speakers making a big difference. As transcription work pays per audio hour, the speed of the transcriptionist impacts directly on the amount of money that they can earn in a day.
Accuracy comes into play in relation to retaining clients. Carelessly transcribed work will not encourage clients to use a transcriptionist again, while precisely transcribed copy will see clients coming back for more work time and again.
Have you tried your hand at transcription or do you use a professional transcriptionist? Use the comments box to share your experiences.