When you’re transcribing audio for someone, you will often find that there are words and names that you can’t quite hear. Sometimes, it might be difficult to figure this out – for example, it’s hard to find via Google the correct way to spell a minor employee’s name, because they may not appear in a search, or it may be a common name. On the other hand, you can nearly always find out the CEO’s name by putting the name of the company into Google! Here are some other suggestions for ways to figure out words and phrases, so you can make your transcripts as complete as possible.
- Google is an amazing resource. If you hear half a word, you can type it into a search engine, and often it will suggest the right word all by itself. For example, if you’re doing medical transcription, the names of medications can be very complicated. You might hear the word “propanolol" – which Google will immediately correct for you to “propranolol”.
- Google can also help if you know some details about the place. If you’re transcribing something and you know that they’re talking about a mine in Brazil, you can simply search “mine in Brazil” and check the name against what you hear. Is it the Carajás Mine?
- Slides and presentations can be very useful if you’re transcribing a meeting. Some companies may upload them to their websites, or you could ask your client if they could send you a copy. That’s a really easy way to get names, dates, figures and specialist vocabulary right from the source.
- Ask your client if they have any specialist vocabulary that’s likely to be used in the audio.
- Company websites may also be of use, or even the sites of their competitors. They’ll include technical vocabulary, the names of sites and often staff members, or company news which might refer to the same things mentioned in the audio. This is especially useful when you’re looking for how to spell something.
- Wikipedia is crowd-sourced, so it’s not always a reliable source of information, but if you need to look up what something means or basic facts like the population of a country, it can quickly confirm your guesses.
- Other resources can depend on what kind of audio you’re transcribing. WebMD and Drugs.com are ideal for medical transcripts, while news sites like Reuters and the BBC can be useful for political and financial transcription.
What to do if you just can’t figure it out:
Every person who does transcription has been there. Whether it’s technical vocabulary or someone’s pouring a drink at the exact wrong moment, sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what’s being said. There are two ways around that: you can take a best guess, and then make sure your client knows it is a guess by highlighting it in some way, or you can just include a little tag like [inaudible] in place of the word.
Obviously, it’s best to avoid doing this if at all possible, but it is important to provide as complete a transcript as you can. Don’t be afraid to make guesses, as long as you make it clear that it's a guess. Your client will be able to quickly correct if it’s wrong, while you make it clear that you’ve done your best.