Transcription Questions and Answers from Tigerfish Transcribing:
What is stenography and how is it used by transcription services?
You’ve probably heard of stenographers, and maybe seen one at work in a court room. Although they need to be able to type about 200 words per minute, they often project calm, and seem to be concentrating but not speedy. Their hand movements sometimes appear rather musical, and not frantic. There are reasons for this!
Stenography renders words phonetically. A stenotype or shorthand machine is a special keyboard which is chorded. It has many fewer keys than a conventional keyboard, and stenographers press multiple keys at the same time (called ‘chording’ or ‘stroking’) to spell out syllables, words, or even entire phrases in one motion. That’s why a stenographer’s hands may appear to be making music. And perhaps it is also because there is some creativity involved: each stenographer is choosing how to ‘spell’ a word phonetically, given that English (I just typed ‘Inglish’ in error, and I don’t think I ever make that particular mistake!) has so many homophones which must be differentiated. Stenographers develop their own ways of doing this.
Transcriptionists who use stenography must still produce a transcript in regular written language. In the old days they would translate their own stenotype. Modern stenotype machines usually incorporate computer processors which are set for the particular user, and automatically convert the stenotype into English. There usually is still a need for corrections and differentiation of the homophones to produce a finished transcript. Stenography is typically only used in settings where there is a need for live, real-time transcription, such as court, or events being televised with closed captions.
Transcriptionists who do not use stenography are typing directly into a language as it is normally written. They use an ordinary keyboard, and a machine or software that allows them to start and stop an audio recording, or sometimes to slow it down or speed it up. For general transcription purposes –most corporate transcription, legal transcription, financial transcription, focus group transcription, this is what serves best.
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