How to Make out Unclear Words in Recordings when Transcribing

If you're an audio transcriber, you're certain frequently to come across words in recordings that you're unable to make out. Sometimes this is because of mispronunciation, a difficult foreign accent, or background noise. Don't lose heart - there are plenty of ways you can figure out those garbled words.

Steps

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    First, make sure you're using a decent piece of transcription software.
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    Secondly, you should start out by transcribing the whole sentence minus the unclear word. This will enable you to see the context in which the missing word appears, which should give you a much better chance of guessing at it.
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    Try transcription-industry solutions such as Speech filter. This is a hardware and software solution (see http://www.speechfilter.com) that filters out some of the background noise, making the voices in the recording easier to hear.
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    You'll usually be able to hear roughly what the unclear word sounds like. You need to think about what words sound similar that fit the context. A thesaurus can be useful for this. To use the thesaurus in Microsoft Word, highlight the word in question then press Shift-F7.
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    Often an "unclear" word is not really unclear at all - you just think it is because you don't know the word. That may be because the word is technical and not in common speech, in which case you can try looking it up.
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    Look out for acronyms (words made up of the first letters of other words, such as NATO or NASA). These are often used in conversations by insiders, but as an "outsider" you may still be able to guess them if you think laterally. After using an acronym, a speaker will often give the long version, which should help.
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    If you come across an unclear word more than once, and you figure it out midway through a recording, the professional course of action is to fill it in in the earlier instances too.

Article Info

Categories: Office Skills | Visual & Written Media