Transcribing - Is It For Me?
Transcribing involves more than just typing fast or accurately. Certainly, that's a big part of the job, but just as important is having a "good ear", hearing accurately, even when more than one person is speaking, and being able to follow formats with accuracy. What follows is a list of things you can do to hone your skills before you seek work in the legal transcription field.
Improving your typing speed
Every transcriber knows that the saying "time is money" is 100% true in our industry. Your earning potential depends on your typing speed and accuracy. Your ultimate goal should be to type at least 70 words per minute. If you've not reached that goal yet, you can practice.
Go to http://play.typeracer.com/, set up a free account, and track your progress. This site uses excerpts from books and movies for short transcriptions. They are entertaining and informative, making practice fun.
When you're ready, try this site for a more challenging practice: http://www.typeonline.co.uk/typingspeed.php This site uses excerpts from older British-English books, so you are forced to type familiar words combined in slightly unfamiliar ways.
Getting comfortable with audio players
Express Scribe is a free audio player that will play most transcription audio formats. It can be downloaded here http://www.nch.com.au/scribe/essetup.exe and includes a tutorial on how to use it.
The Player by ForTheRecord is commonly used in courtrooms and can be downloaded for free here: http://www.fortherecord.com/download-ftr-player/
Both of these players give you two options for transcription: hot keys and foot pedal compatibility. You can start practicing transcribing using the hot keys. Some people prefer hot keys to foot pedals and use these throughout their transcription career. In Express Scribe, go to "Options" and see the "System Wide Hot Keys". In The Player, open the "Properties" and go to "Shortcuts" to program hot keys.
Transcribe one-speaker audios
Start out by practicing transcription of audio with just one speaker. Search out something interesting to you in an mp3 downloadable format. http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/ has an array of books that can be downloaded in mp3 format and played in Express Scribe and The Player. Once you've downloaded your mp3 (and extracted it, if necessary), right-click on the downloaded file and select Open With and select one of these audio players.
Transcribe multiple-speaker audios
When you're ready, look for something of interest to you that has more than one speaker. Try searching "board meeting mp3 [your hometown]". Or you can download a focus group meeting of the Texas Bar Association here: http://www.texasbar.com/pliflashdrive/home.html Right-click on the link and choose "Save As". Name it, download it, and now you can open it in a player. You can refer to each speaker simply as "Male Speaker" or "Female Speaker". (NB: If downloading from the Texas bar, the Houston Focus Group has one speaker for the first hour. Jump ahead one hour and one minute and you'll get to the question and answer portion.)
Take a look at real legal transcripts
New York Court of Appeals now includes the video and transcripts of their hearings online at http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/OA-Archives.htm.