The Challenges of Transcribing from Audio

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The Challenges of Transcribing from Audio

Transcribing from audio recordings is a real skill and it’s even more difficult if you are working from one language into another. We spoke with one of our German translators who regularly works on German transcriptions and direct translations from German into English.

Interviewer: So, Lina, how did you end up working from audio?

Lina: Well, I work for a few different companies on text translations. One day one of my clients contacted me asking me if I could transcribe a German audio recording of a police interview. I was a bit nervous at first, but to be honest it’s not so hard, you just have to listen, really, really carefully!

Interviewer: Really!?

Lina: Well, yes, of course. Sometimes recordings might be used by the police, the courts, solicitors… It’s really important that you only write down what you can hear. Just that. Nothing else.

Interviewer: And what about ‘direct translation’? What’s that?

Lina: Well, really it’s translation. But you are working from a recording. Either an audio (MP3… WAV) or a video file. So you listen to the recording (for me it’s in German) and you write what they say, but in English.

Interviewer: Wow, that sounds really tough. How do you find it?

Lina: Oh it’s not so bad. At first it was like, really hard, but now I am used to it. It’s getting easier anyway.

Interviewer: So do you write it in German first?

Lina: Oh no. It’s going straight into English, so you are translating it in your mind.

Interviewer: You must be really good then.

Lina: Well I hope so!

Interviewer: And is it always interviews?

Lina: Oh no, it can be anything really. Presentations for companies, or videos from websites…

Interviewer: And which kind of projects are your favourite ones?

Lina: Well, I have done some subtitling too. That’s kind of a new thing for me and I really enjoy it. I’d seen films with subtitles on, of course, but had no idea how they were produced.

Interviewer: And how do you do it?

Lina: Well, it’s a bit complicated. You can use different types of subtitling software, but they all do similar things. They allow you to time all the sentences, so they appear at the right times on-screen… ‘time-coding’ we call it. It’s quite good fun really, if you like tech and that sort of thing.

Interviewer: Well, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today. Have a lovely afternoon.

Lina: You too.

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