Take Note Team
It’s been a fairly wet couple of weeks here in Britain and that can only mean one thing: Wimbledon!
Yes, it’s that time of year when tennis lovers dig out those bottles of Pimm’s and bowls of strawberries and cream to watch athletes, who never dig out those bottles of Pimm’s and bowls of strawberries and cream, play tennis.
So, as the groundskeepers do a last double-check of every blade of grass in SW19, and spectators do a last double-check of their cholesterol levels, here at Take Note we reflect upon what transcribers can learn from tennis’s greatest players.
In the history of sport, there have been few female athletes (or athletes of any gender for that matter) as consistently brilliant as Serena Williams. With 23 Grand Slam wins to date, she has spent an incredible 319 weeks at the top of the WTA’s player rankings – that’s more than six years as the world’s best! As transcribers, we don’t spend much time on court hitting aces and looking fly doing it, but consistency is definitely an area where Serena could teach us a thing or two.
There are a lot of rules to transcription, a lot of punctuation pitfalls to avoid and spelling mistakes to pick up on, but there are also certain formatting rules that you have to follow. When you’re working on a transcription, it’s not only important that you stick to all the rules your primary school teacher taught you about i before e except after c, you also need to make sure you’re being consistent with the guidelines laid down by the agency you’re working for. At Take Note, this means things like not using semi colons and splitting paragraphs that are longer than fifteen lines. These guidelines ensure that every single one of our transcribers are singing from the same hymn sheet so that when we bring those files together, they are wonderfully consistent.
In today’s game, no one has been playing professional tennis as long as the man who is probably the greatest player of all time, Roger Federer, who started his career all the way back in 1998. In fact, at this year’s Australian Open, he was drawn against Stefanos Tsitsipas, a player who was only one month old when Federer started playing professionally! In that time, the Swiss has won pretty much everything, and, despite now being 37 years old, he made it to the French Open semi-finals just this month. So, if there’s anything we can learn from him it has to be stamina.
Being a transcriber means never knowing what to expect; on any given day you could find yourself with a nice, easy-to-understand file that you’ll have wrapped up in a couple of hours, or a long and noisy focus group that’ll take you all day! When the latter comes along, it can be quite overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like you’re getting nowhere, but that’s where stamina comes in. Making sure that you pace yourself and look after yourself properly is the only way you’re going to be able to get through those long days, so that means taking frequent breaks, eating properly, drinking lots, and being patient. Oh, and when things seem really dire, just remember you’re a transcriber, and you’re not playing the 2010 first-round singles match at Wimbledon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut which lasted for three days! You can do this!
Talking of John Isner, not only is the man a giant (literally, he’s 6’10), not only has he played in two of the longest tennis matches of all time (the second only took a paltry 6 ½ hours), but he has also hit an incredible 11,403 aces during his career! That’s an average of 17 per match, and is exactly why he’s the man we go to when we want to learn about accuracy.
What is a transcriber without accuracy? Honestly, probably not a transcriber for much longer, because you can have perfect spelling, a complete understanding of apostrophes, and be the quickest typist on the block, but none of it means anything if you’re not capturing exactly what is being said. Accuracy is why it’s always important to go through your file a second time after you’ve finished typing it out, and why you should always go back over all your inaudibles a final time before sending off a file.
When Johanna Konta reached the French Open semi-finals earlier this month, it was as part of a welcomed return to the game after a defeat-ridden 2018. With her hopes firmly set on once again reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon, or even on making it a step further, she’s put her return to success down to one thing: practice.
This is something all transcribers can definitely relate to, because, like athletes, the best transcribers only become the best transcribers by honing their skills again and again. When I first became a transcriber, it would take me all day to perfect even the shortest of files, but now I can have hour-long pieces done in a matter of hours, and that is all the result of practice. Whether it’s signing up for regular shifts to ensure you don’t get rusty, or doing typing tests in your spare time, practice, as they say, makes perfect!
It’s a long way from going out of Wimbledon’s third round as a result of cramping and fatigue to winning your second Wimbledon title, an Olympic gold medal, and becoming world number one all in the space of a few months, but that’s Andy Murray for you. Even as I write this, after two years of injuries and surgeries, he his currently playing in the doubles final at Queen’s Club, a week before he makes his long-awaited return to the hallowed turf at Wimbledon. So, if there’s anything we can learn from Andy Murray (and as arguably one of Britain’s most successful athletes, there’s a lot) it’s perseverance.
As transcribers, learning to trust in ourselves and persevere is one of the best skills we can master. For the majority of us, we took no classes on transcription and we didn’t spend months preparing ourselves for this career; instead it found us and we had to learn as we went. Whilst this is really quite amazing when you think about it, it’s also incredibly daunting, and when you receive your first multi-speaker file or find yourself struggling to understand a heavy accent, it would be easy to raise up your hands and give up. This is where perseverance is key, because pushing through that wall is the best thing you can do. At first, you might find you can’t get through a sentence without an inaudible (or five), but the longer you go on the easier it becomes. In fact, when you go back over those first inaudibles during your edit, you’ll wonder how you ever found them difficult to understand! Learn to trust yourself, learn to trust your skills, and persevere.
Written by Transcriber Lydia
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