Diverse knowledge required for transcription

The knowledge I have gained as a transcriptionist is not limited to my field of work. Transcribing interviewsdisciplinary hearingsdictation and the like gives me insight into businesses, lives, issues and information and that I would otherwise never be exposed to.



(Of course, the specific content of my work is strictly confidential and will never be discussed on this blog but I will refer to my work on a more general level.)


I recently completed a number of interviews conducted by a researcher in the IT field. My experience with this subject had up until this point been specifically in the context of IT outsourcing. The first day or so was a bit rough as my learning curve deviated on a vertical path skywards. In all honesty, IT-speak is in a league of its own. Whole sentences can be formed consisting of little more than a litany of acronyms; and terms that bear little resemblance to the spelling thereof, e.g. iSCSI is pronounced “iscuzzy”. Huh? For the IT informed, iSCSI is “iscuzzy” but to the average Joe, iSCSI is i-S-C-S-I. Yup, it’s a mouthful and I understand why the IT folks would transform it into “iscuzzy” (I am yet to understand what the term actually means though …) By the way, iSCSI stands for Internet Small Computer System Interface. I’m still clueless as to what that means. As time goes on, I will of course understand this too … I hope.


I usually Google myself to death for the first few days and from then on it becomes easier as the terminology becomes more familiar to me.


I have learned heaps about product branding, many aspects of HIV/AIDS, resource allocation, education, economics, finance, apartheid, domestic violence, politics, call centres, decision-making theory and the list goes on and on. While I’ll never have the depth of information required to obtain my PhD, I have accumulated loads of knowledge and can hold my own in a discussion about retractable syringes and even adult learning. I have a very long way to go before I’ll even consider entering an IT discussion. I am, however, very happy to announce that I do now know the difference between consolidation and convergence … No, really.

Transcriptionist, Transcriber or Typist

What I do for a living seems at times to be an overly complicated issue to explain. Not only because many people have never heard of this line of work but because the terminology around the transcription profession is unfamiliar and sometimes a little confusing.



When conversations steer towards “what line of work are you in,” I attempt to choose the most appropriate explanation based on what I assume would be most easily understood by the person I am speaking to.


The correct term is “transcriptionist”. The term “transcriptionist” also refers to the highly skilled work performed by people involved in linguistics and more specifically the annotation and segmentation of speech.


The term “transcriber” is another term used to denote the title of one that performs transcription of audio recordings to text. This term is also used to mean the tool, software or equipment utilised in the process of transcription. It is a widely used term as an alternative to “transcriptionist” but is certainly not my first choice. Maybe it is just a quirk of mine that I prefer not to be classified in the same category as a tool. In my not-so-humble opinion, my work involves transcribing but that does not make me a transcriber; I am a transcriptionist.


At its most basic, this is what a transcriptionist does but certainly falls short of capturing the level of knowledge and skill required of a transcriptionist or, for that matter, the functions performed by a transcriptionist. I went into some depth in a previous post about the characteristics of a transcriptionist and in another post I described the wealth of knowledge required by a transcriptionist – especially a transcriptionist like myself, who takes her work very seriously and wishes to deliver a superior service to my clients who would then recommend my service to colleagues.


I hope this post goes some way in clearing up the confusion around some of the terminology used in this industry.