transcription, speech bubbles

Audio Transcription: How to obtain the best results for your project

Audiovisual transcription and translation is experiencing a boom following an unprecedented growth in digital video consumption over the last two years. eMarketer estimated a 8.2% growth in digital video audience figures in 2017 and with this growth there are many instances where a written transcript is required. Transcription can serve to create subtitles for a video, create written transcripts for telephone interviews or to document events in a written format that is also then machine-readable.

If transcription is a relatively new service to you and one which you believe you may have a need for, check out eSense Translations’ advice on how to ensure you receive the best results.

Transcription is not as straightforward as transferring speech into text and if you request this service from a provider, such as eSense Translations, they are likely to require the following information in order to offer you the best service at the most cost-effective fee.


1) Length of the audio

A simple requirement to start with, audio transcription providers will want to know the length of your audio. This is so that they can provide you with an accurate quote on the service, as well as an estimated turnaround time. Quotes are normally given on a price per minute of audio, with one hour of audio taking around 3-4 hours to transcribe if it remains in the same language.


2) Number of speakers

When transcribing audio, the more speakers included the more complex the task becomes. With multiple speakers, the transcriber must identify and label who is speaking as well as what is being said. This is not too much of a problem, if the audio contains a straightforward interview with back and forth questions. However, when there are multiple speakers, for example in an enthusiastic focus group session, speakers may begin to interrupt or talk over one another. The transcriber will then have to document half-finished sentences and ideas in a way that still make sense to the reader.

As the number of speakers adds to the complexity of a project, you will often find that the cost will increase accordingly. This is not the case with all providers, but it is certainly worth checking in advance to avoid unexpected fee increases and/or delays.


3) Full Verbatim or Intelligent Verbatim

During a discussion, a lot is said that is not necessarily of use in a written transcript. People um, err, repeat themselves and make false starts, e.g. ‘Well, um, I guess I would think that…’ It is a natural way of speaking, but it does not make for easy free-flowing reading. eSense Translations finds that most of its clients therefore ask for ‘Intelligent Verbatim.’ This means that all the meaningless noises and false starts made, like those listed, are eliminated and the transcript produced will be a lot more readable.

Customarily, the fees for transcripts to be completed as intelligent verbatim or full verbatim do not vary, but the transcription provider will prefer to know in advance what your requirements are. Neglect to state this and you may be subject to further editing costs to meet your requirement.


4) Format of your Transcript

How would you like your written transcript to appear? If you are completing market research, perhaps you have a particular template or spreadsheet that you would like the content to be placed in for easier analysis. Perhaps you are creating subtitles and would therefore like particular speech to be placed with certain images. Provide these instructions and templates when agreeing a project with your transcription provider and normally they will be happy to oblige at no extra cost.


5) Timestamps / Inaudibles

Timestamps are placed within a transcript to indicate whereabouts in the audio that section of the speech occurs. You can choose how often, if at all, you would like your transcriber to insert timestamps.

Some clients request these every time there is a change in speaker or topic and sometimes they are not necessary at all. Again, indicate this from the start of your project and your provider will be happy to adhere to your requirements.

Another timestamp that can occur in your transcript – and often one clients wish to avoid- is the timestamp of the dreaded ‘inaudible.’

Experienced transcribers will have the skills and the necessary technology to ensure that everything in your audio that can be heard, is heard. However, depending on the quality of your audio, this is not always possible and if there are a few seconds of audio that cannot be heard, the transcriber will normally mark this as ‘inaudible’ alongside a timestamp. This gives you the opportunity to revisit this section and see if there is a way for the inaudible to be eliminated.

To avoid as many of these ‘dreaded inaudibles’ as possible, try to obtain the highest quality audio that you can with as little background noise as possible.


6) Translation

When transcribing your audio, you may wish for the transcript to remain in the same language, e.g. English>English, however if you are looking to reach a global market, why not explore the possibility of also translating your audio into the native language. For example, you may have a video of a discussion in English, but in order for it to be accessed by your French market, it would be advisable for French subtitles to be created. eSense Translations has transcribers skilled in many languages, who have the experience to make this process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Depending on the amount of detail required, audio transcription and translation can be completed single-stage or into the source language and then followed by a translation. Single-stage transcription involves direct transcription into the target language; therefore no source language transcript is created. However, if your work requires more detailed analysis, it may be advisable to invest in transcription into the source language, followed by translation.

Fees for these different processes will vary, so always ensure you understand what service you are receiving when agreeing the project to make certain your requirements are fully covered.


If you would like further information on transcription with or without translation services, eSense Translations has a wealth of experience and would be pleased to discuss your project requirements with you.


By Lorna Paice

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