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How to record audio for transcription and translation

At Global Voices, we are regularly asked to perform transcription services for businesses in the financial, legal, medical and public sectors; converting audio and multimedia files into written documents in any source or target language.

We provide transcription services for both single and multi-speaker dictation, but a transcription and translation will only ever be as good as the quality of the audio recording from which it is made. Here are our tips on how to record audio for transcription, enabling us to deliver the most professional transcripts.

Before your recording

Inform your participants in advance

It’s important all participants are made aware that they are to be recorded. Firstly, it’s not only a courtesy but a legal requirement to inform individuals if a recording is being made for professional or public use.

Secondly, it will help improve the quality of the audio if all participants are aware of best practice. You should request that they speak only one at a time, use a strong, clear voice and slow their rate of speech. Remind them that shuffling papers and clearing their throats can mask the voice of the speaker. If you are recording audio for transcription and translation into a different target language, you might also ask participants to avoid using idioms and colloquialisms, as they can be more difficult to translate.

Choose a digital voice recorder

With a digital voice recorder, you can achieve superior quality audio recordings so long as you choose a device that meets your requirements. Look for specifications such as a large memory capacity, high quality recording, an external microphone and a fast file transfer to help you move files to a computer.

If you are recording audio from a conference call, this can potentially damage the quality of your recording, but it offers advantages too. If possible, use in-built audio recording software rather than attempting to record externally from one side of the conversation. Most telecommunications providers and even some smartphones will offer this service, so be sure to check what technology is available to you.

Reduce background noise

Microphones can pick up a great deal of sound that goes unnoticed by the human ear. This background noise can obscure or diminish the quality of your audio recording. To minimise background noise, make sure you place any microphone in an equal distance from the participants who are most likely to speak.

As far as possible, you should choose an enclosed and soundproof room for your audio transcription recording. Turn off noisy air conditioners or fans, whirring electronics and even ticking clocks. Ask participants to avoid fidgeting too—desks, chairs and hardwood floors can also make noise as people adjust their position. It goes without saying that they should be advised to avoid general chitchat during the audio transcription recording too.

Conduct a trial run

Once you’re set up and ready to go, test your recording device, sound levels and file transfer capability. Talk with the subjects and then check the quality of recording, remembering to save that recording somewhere easily accessible. This testing can help you determine whether you need to make adjustments to the position of the microphone or participants and remove or reduce any background noises.

During your recording

Identify the speakers

Once you begin your discussion, it is important to help audio transcriptionists identify who is speaking. An effective way to do this is to ask each participant to introduce themselves at the beginning of the discussion, enabling the transcriptionist to put a name to each different voice. It can also be a useful habit to address each participant by name during conversations.

Record short audio files

Instead of recording a large audio file, opt to record several short audio files. When your digital audio recording is split into parts, you can label and organise different parts. It is also far easier to upload and transfer smaller audio files.

This practice also reduces the chances of losing an audio file as, if one file becomes corrupted, it constitutes only a small portion of your overall discussion. If you’re particularly concerned about files becoming lost or corrupted, you might wish to make two or more separate recordings to ensure you have a back up.

After your recording

Save your recording

Once you’ve completed your audio recording, you’ll need keep it safe. Transfer the files to a computer, back them up, and send the file to your transcription service provider as soon as possible.

You’ll also need to ensure your audio file is saved in an appropriate format. Global Voice’s professional transcriptionists can perform a transcription in the following forms: CD/DVD, MP3, WAV, WMA, DSS, DS2, M4a, BigHand and Winscribe.

Provide details of your recording

Provide your transcription service provider with the questions / agenda used during the recording. This might include a list of the keywords and terms used during the meeting, and relevant policy relating to your business or industry. Just as you asked participants to introduce themselves during the recording, you might also wish to give a little background on them, as well as the correct spelling of their names.

Remember, you also need to be clear about what it is you require. As a professional translation agency, we offer transcription services in source language and any number of given target languages. We pride ourselves on matching your multilingual transcription requirements to the most suitable member of our transcription service, who knows your business sector inside out.

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