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What is transcription?

The act of transcribing is, at its simplest, transforming one system of characters to another.

It usually covers the action of transferring speech into text as shown in the example below:

Different transcription methods

There are two general methods of transcribing and audio file into text: manual and machine transcription.

Manual transcription

Manual transcribing is when a person transcribes audio to text by listening to a recording and then writing down what is being said.

Manual transcribing can be a lengthy and a somewhat challenging process since it requires a lot of patience.

You can normally expect to spend three to five times the length of the audio file on transcribing an audio file manually.

There are, however, tools that can help with the process of transcribing manually, such as Inqscribe and GearPlayer

But, even with the help of such tools, transcribing manually is still a lengthy process which is why many tend to stick with transcriptions that are machine based.

Machine based transcriptions

Machine learning based transcriptions is when you convert speech to text via a transcription software.

The software is trained at converting sound into text and usually gets better over time as the system learns to identify patterns to make better and more accurate decisions.

Machine based transcriptions take a fraction of time compared to the manual transcription approach.

Usually you can get a one hour audio file transcribed via a machine in less than 15 minutes, compared to at least four to five hours, if you were to do it manually.

Focus on Listening is transcribing audio to text the machine based way.

Transcription – How it can benefit you

There may be many reasons to why you would possibly need to transcribe speech into text, but a common one is that it is easier to work with a written text than an audio file.

This is true when conducting analysis but also in terms of practicality.

It’s easier to search in a written text, when having to refer back, rather than a longer audio file, which can be difficult to manage.

You will be able to find the specific quote or wording in a matter of seconds.

For instance, as a student, it is easier to review a text when preparing for an exam, rather than having to go through an entire audio file.

It’s much faster for the eyes to skim through written text and you can more easily search for a specific part of ​​a written text using the search function.

Therefore, it is often rather beneficial to transcribe speech into text if you want to have systematic and thorough notes.

Challenges of transcribing

It’s important that you’re aware of the challenges that come with transcribing: it’s not always an immediate and straightforward procedure when converting oral communication into text.

When we humans communicate, there are many different clues besides the language itself that the receiver must decode in order to understand the speaker’s message entirely.

Consequently, there might also be non-verbal features such as body language taking place during oral communication that can contain important clues to how the message is to be understood.

An example of this is that the body language can indicate the sender’s mood and therefore also general attitude to the subject at hand.

It can also be other verbal clues such as pronunciation of certain words.

None of these can necessarily be transformed into writing.

The way that certain words are said, and the tone of voice as a whole, is not something that you can indicate in a written document.

And when it comes to body language, the written language also has its limitations in illustrating this.

This is partly due to the fact that body language is also decoded based on social and cultural norms whereas transcriptions appear to be neutral.

Who can benefit from using a transcription app?

A transcription app can be a great tool for a variety of people.

Deaf and people with hearing impairment

Transcription has shown itself to be an extremely useful tool for a very special group of students who may otherwise face tough challenges, namely deaf students and students with hearing impairments.

For deaf students, transcription services can become indispensable as it helps break down the barrier that the hard of hearing might otherwise face when entering e.g. university as most lectures are usually held on-campus.

Journalists, scientists, doctors

In addition to assisting deaf students, transcription services are a method often associated with journalists, researchers, and perhaps even physicians and doctors.

For journalists, it usually pays off to record interviews and get them transcribed later so that they are easier to navigate through later.

This way, they make sure that they won’t miss any important information or misquote their sources.

Researchers will typically use transcription services in much the same way as journalists.

This is because most academics will tend to use qualitative measures such as interviews, study groups, surveys and more.

When the interview or conversation has subsequently been transcribed, it will be easier to review and analyze, as well as referred to as a viable source in e.g. assignments or dissertations.

Doctors or other healthcare professionals will often dictate important information to reduce time spent on documentation.

Later, the dictated audio can be transcribed and used in the further treatment of the patient.

Dictation allows for the doctor to move faster with examinations and not stop repeatedly in the process to write down all necessary information.