I asked several transcriptionists about the myths regarding transcription and the industry.  The following are some of the responses.

I hear a lot that people think the audio hour rate means per hour pay.  So they’ll think it’s an easy job because the “money is so good” – Hope.  Oh yes, this would be nice!  So an example of this: $120 per audio hour.  This is certainly not $120 per hour of time worked as in a regular job or service provided.  This is $120 per every hour of audio.  That one hour of audio may take anything between two to four hours to type, or even longer, depending on so many aspects such a number of speakers, audio quality, how fast the speakers speak, number of terms required to research, clean versus verbatim, etcetera. 

That one recorded audio hour = one hour of typing – Moira.  I like this one.  Why?  I used to think this.  How hard can it be?  Surely, I can type as fast as someone speaks.  In high school when I was learning to type, I remember watching TV and my fingers would move as if I was typing what I heard.  I assumed I could type as fast as the speakers spoke, but I never put it to the test.  When I first started – and as is the case with many beginners I’ve helped – it can take well and truly an hour or more to type just ten minutes of audio.  An experienced and fast transcriptionist can type an hour of easy, clear audio of normal speed speech in two to three hours.

That AI (artificial intelligence) can do our job – Jo.  This is a massive misconception.  I’ve trialled it.  Once.  It took me longer to edit the document than it would have if I’d have typed it from scratch.  And no, you can’t get the gist of it.  The transcript simply doesn’t make sense.  AI is not comparable to the human ear.  It cannot deal with background noise, multiple speakers, or accents – Claire.

AI can produce a transcript that is very, very wrong, and depending on the purpose of the transcription, it could actually cause problems if that transcript is being relied upon in a legal context.  There has been a recent study of YouTube kids’ programs showing that around 40% of the automatic captions contained inappropriate words definitely not suitable for children.

The most common one I come across is the assumption that transcription means typing and translation – Elisa.  Yes, that you must have a second language to become a transcriptionist.  There is a place for this; there is a need for transcriptionists who can also translate.  There are also phonetic and even phonemic transcriptionists for those who need to know how the spoken words were sounded actually pronounced. There are even further specialised transcription services.  But most commonly, transcription – whether it be general, medical or legal – is the recording of what has been or is being said.

You don’t need a pedal – Claire.  This one is neither proven nor busted, but depends on user preference.  Do I need a pedal?  Yes.  Would I be able to transcribe efficiently without one?  Likely, but eventually.  I’ve worked for seven years running my transcription business using only hot keys when I type.  Like most things with muscle memory, once I learnt my hot keys, I found it actually made quite a minimal difference time wise for me – Elisa.  So this one is a matter of personal preference.  I learnt to transcribe using a pedal.  There are many who drive a car with hand controls instead of foot pedals. We can train our brain to do anything we want it to, but it’s practice that helps it to become a skill.

Are you aware of a myth about transcription we haven’t covered here?

Jo Collins

The Transcription Directory