Turning Spoken German into Written English
Transcription is the process of converting speech into text.
Add the element of translation and it’s a service you’d expect any good German translation agency or freelance translator to offer.
However, it relies on the translator having a very good ear for German, not just a good eye! I would it say it's a pretty tricky skill for anyone who hasn't lived in a German-speaking environment for a reasonable period of time.
I usually listen to the recording in German, translate it in my head and then type out the English translation directly.
Unless the client needs a written German copy, this is quicker than the two stage process of first producing a written German version and then translating it.
It's great fun and makes a break from normal translation work. It is also a good test of “real” German language skills! If you don’t understand the accent or the slang spoken by the people in the recording, you are simply lost! As a result, it's a great test of a translator’s abilities!
Just as most German texts are not written with a view to being translated, many sound recordings are made with no consideration of the poor translator who will subsequently have to decipher what is being said!
The Germans are great engineers and the majority of my transcription work, to date, has been producing texts of interviews recorded in German factories.
First be sure about the service you actually need:
to English translators (or vice versa) have standard line/page and hourly rates.
And this is the hourly rate which will be reflected in transcription
According to the translator forums and my own experience, the time needed to transcribe an audio recording will be between 4 and 6 times the length of the recording itself.
i.e. 1 minute of recorded speech = 4 to 6 minutes of transcribing time.
So take the length of the recording, multiply by 4 to 6, and that should roughly indicate the number of hours work involved.
Turning pure German audio into German text is faster than translating the audio directly into English, so rates may vary for the two activities.
The translator may also charge for those “associated”
activities, such as keeping note of, and listing, all the time codes, so
there is a record of when each question or answer starts and stops.
This is a fabulously time consuming process.
Once you know enough German to translate, you just need to hone up your listening comprehension skills.
My suggestion – tune into a German radio station and record a programme or an interview. Practice typing out exactly what is said. It’s a great way of “getting your ear in”, and recognizing all the German varieties of the “ums” and “ers” which litter spoken English sentences!
Regularly listening to German radio or German TV is something all good German translators will be doing anyway.
Many translators will use speech recognition software - it's not only faster, it also helps reduce all that tapping at the keyboard!
The translator can read an original German text, work out the appropriate English translation and then, instead of typing, speak their translation out loud.
The software then transforms the spoken word into
written text and displays it on your computer screen. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking software to do this - it's inexpensive and very effective. I love it.
I hope this article is useful. Other articles in this Buying Translation series are listed below.