20 May 2011

Transcribing - through the years

While I was still a law student, I worked in a variety of jobs.  One of them was with a group into a form of energetic healing -- Pranic healing. I was supposed to be a coordinator or an organizer of workshops or seminars.

Actually, I did a lot of other things.  One of the jobs assigned to me was to transcribe a lecture by Master Choa Kok Sui -- the founder and proponent  of the Pranic Healing movement in the Philippines.

I can't recall the subject matter of the lecture.  What came into my mind then, was that I should have had a typewriter--instead of doing it by hand.

It was the late  '80's.  Desktops, personal computers  in the Philippines  were a rarity. Master Choa had one but he used it for writing his books.  It was not for the use of the staff.  So I had to content myself with writing out the lecture in longhand and then typing it up on a manual typewriter.

It took a lot of time.  I wasn't  trained to do shorthand.  But I got it done. I was gratified to  learn that he used the transcribed material as a basis for his succeeding books.

Moving into the early '90's.  I was working with an NGO that sponsored seminars and discussion groups on alternative law. The office had a computer.  But we still did the transcribing by hand and then typed up the transcripts.

I have no idea what the organization did with the transcripts.  I know that I used some of the material for newsletters that I wrote and edited.

By the late '90s I was a full-fledged lawyer.   I would go to court and watch the stenographers type into a machine.  They  looked smart and  efficient but the transcripts did not reflect their efficient demeanor   More often than not, transcripts were riddled with typographical errors, grammar slips or pure mistnterpretation of what they heard on tape.  Results would often be hilarious.

It was in great contrast to the accuracy of the transcripts produced in the Stock Exchange's Compliance and  Enforcement Deaparmtnet (Now the Market Regulation Department.)  CPAs did the transcription work for lack of stenographers and secretaries.  They  took down notes during the meetings  while taping the proceedings.  Then they typed up their transcripts  into PCs while listening to tapes.

I could clearly see that more than technology, education mattered a lot.   People with a good grasp of the English language and who were also wide readers produced more accurate transcripts. But tecnhology does play a vital role -- at least for speed and for ease in producing manuscripts.

When I set up my transcription company, I had to research and study new techniques.  I learned that what I knew about transcription was sadly outdated.  Software such as expresscribe  had made transcribing easy.  Equipment such as excellent headsets could shut out noisy background noise.  And noisy audio could actually be improved or cleaned up as  there was software for that.  Nowadays, there is voice recognition technology but I still have to familiarize myself with that tool.

But I know that technology is created by humans and humans are still needed to put technology to use. No matter how sophisticated the technology used,   the transcriber still has to demonstrate excellent  typing and listening skills and should have  a good grasp  language.

 Victoria Suarez
Head - Legal Transcription Services
Lexcribe, Inc.

Visit www.lexcribe.com


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