What’s Transcription and Why Does It Matter?

What’s Transcription and Why Does It Matter?

If you’ve ever wondered, “what’s transcription and how’s it different from translation and interpretation?” This is the article for you.

While the first few pages of Google search results might leave you confused, with pages of articles talking about DNA transcription and translation – that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Transcription is vital to making your audio and visual content accessible to wider audiences, creating a written record of what’s been spoken. 

Before we dive into where these three services and skill sets overlap and differentiate, let’s clarify the differences between Transcription vs. Translation vs. Interpretation.

What is Transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting audio or video material to a written format. 

Transcripts can help increase accessibility of podcasts, lectures, webinars, videos, interviews, consultations, and conferences.

Transcription helps broaden the accessibility of video and audio content by creating a written text for the hard of hearing and deaf communities. For most video or audio shared in a public place, the United States legally requires captions.

What is Translation?

Translation is the process of communicating written words from one language to another.

Unlike transcription, translation requires an in-depth understanding of two languages – the source language and the destination language.

What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is the process of communicating spoken words from one language to another. This process can occur simultaneously or consecutively in pauses designated by the source speaker.

Similar to translation, interpretation requires fluency in two languages – the source language and the destination language. Because interpretation often occurs in real-time, in-depth industry knowledge of jargon is critical to ensuring highly accurate communication of the speaker’s message. 

What if I need audio transcribed and translated from another language?

No fear! To ensure the highest quality translation, the process of transcribing foreign language audio or video files looks like this:

  1. We receive your original video or audio file and send it to one of our top-of-the-line transcriptionists fluent in the source language.
  2. Our transcriptionist creates a transcript of your file in its original language.
  3. We send the transcription to a second member of our team specializing in translation from your specific source language to your destination language.
  4. They translate the transcription into your chosen destination language.
  5. You walk away with two transcriptions – one in your content’s original language and one translated into the language of your choice.

What are the different types of transcription?

Often in daily conversation, our speech contains filler words like “like,” or “umm.” 

Some industries want to hear these filler words and the non-speech forms of communication (laughter, pauses) that color the speaker’s experience. Other industries prefer clean transcriptions, and still others prefer transcripts that get to the heart of the speaker’s intent and create a more general script. 

Let’s dive into the four main types of transcription and the industries that prefer each.

Verbatim Transcription

When someone asks for a verbatim transcript, they want it all – every filler word, stutter, sound, and non-verbal communication. Verbatim transcription is word-for-word transcription. Every sound between the speakers – other than nonrelevant background noise – should be accounted for.

Industries preferring verbatim transcripts: Legal, Market Research, Film, Advertising, Hiring

Edited Transcription

Also known as a clean verbatim transcript, edited transcripts capture everything spoken minus stutters, filler words, and non-verbal communication. While still qualifying as word-for-word transcription, this transcript shows a more clean version of the audio, clearing unnecessary utterances and filler words that don’t add to the text’s meaning.

Edited transcription is often the default for transcriptionists.

Industries preferring edited transcripts: Hiring, Publishing, Academia, Speeches, Conferences, Podcasts

Intelligent Transcription

Also referred to as an intelligent verbatim transcript, intelligent transcripts communicate the speaker’s intent in the clearest way possible. This means no filler words, no non-verbal communication, and no stutters. Transcriptionists creating intelligent transcripts remove non-essential speech to help cleanly highlight the most critical points. 

Industries preferring intelligent transcripts: Speeches and Conferences, Podcasts, Medical, Business Communications

Phonetic Transcription

Phonetic transcription captures the way a person speaks, rather than just their words. Transcriptionists catalog every sound uttered, using the phonetic alphabet to express how the speaker stated the words. Annotations of the speaker’s intonation often accompany these transcriptions. If you’re looking for a phonetic transcription, it’s always best to confirm whether you’d like a more traditional transcript as well.

Industries preferring phonetic transcripts: Academia, Linguistics, Clinical Psychology

What makes a quality transcriptionist?

Where quality translators and interpreters communicate one language to another, the best transcriptionists necessitate a whole other skill set.

1. Typing Speed

The general rule of thumb – 15 minutes takes about 1 hour to transcribe, depending on the clarity of the audio and industry knowledge involved. That means you should expect one hour of content to take roughly four hours.

Typing speeds should range between 60-80 words per minute. Expert transcriptionists can sometimes hit 100 words per minute, but the industry standard lives closer to 70 words per minute.

2. A Keen Ear for Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling

With so much to pay attention to, it’s critical that transcriptionists demonstrate high proficiency in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. 

Additionally, transcriptionists should capture every utterance unless told otherwise. That means if the speaker in your audio said “umm” five times, your transcription should include five “umms” – not four or six – five. 

A misplaced apostrophe or inappropriate comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence and miscommunicate the speaker’s intent. An ability to recognize the speaker’s intent and match their communication with the highest degree of accuracy in punctuation and grammar is a must. 

3. A Great Memory

The better their memory, the fewer times transcriptionists need to pause to write. The best transcriptionists retain the last words spoken while typing everything that came before, making their transcription almost simultaneous. 

Of course, pausing is necessary to ensure accuracy and to double-check for mistakes, but the more words your transcriptionist can hold in their mind while listening and typing at the same time, the faster their turnaround time.

4. They Enjoy Research

Transcription projects run the gamut, from medical interviews to business conferences to industry-specific lectures. No one transcriptionist knows all the jargon for specific industries and cultures. 

To account for a wide breadth of projects, an eagerness to learn and research is a must. Things like names, locations, phrases, acronyms, and industry- or culture-specific terminology often benefit from additional research to ensure accurate transcription.

5. They’re Self Motivated

With most transcription work conducted remotely, transcriptionists must hold themselves accountable to the highest degree of quality and timeliness in their work. Staying focused for a one-hour transcript that might take them four-six hours means being able to ignore distractions and stay on task. Hitting deadlines and ignoring distractions are key skills for transcriptionists!

Finding industry-experienced and professional transcriptionists is difficult. Finding a team who can transcribe your foreign language video and audio content can be even more stressful.

Instead of frantically searching for a quality transcriptionist before hunting for the perfect translator to communicate your transcript from one language to another – save yourself the migraine.

We at Arriva Translations are ready to assist you in all your translation and transcription needs. With over 5,000 interpreters in our network, we offer top-of-the-line, bespoke interpretation and translation services in over 200 unique languages and dialects. And we’re happy to draft the perfect transcriber-translator team to facilitate all your project needs.

So reach out! We’d love to hear from you and see how we can make your day a little easier.

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