What did they just say?

One of the great things about studying abroad in St. Petersburg is that the world-famous Hermitage is free for anyone with a student ID.

Kris’ student ID in Russia

All of the guides are fully bilingual in English and Russian, and know every detail about every floor, window, article of clothing, and gift from the Grand Duchy of Wherever in 17XX.

A friend of mine went on an English-language tour and told me this story. The guide was giving the full rundown on a room, when they got to one piece of furniture, which they said “is made of, um, some sh*t.” Without missing a beat, as though nothing had happened, they then moved the tour along.

The group had no idea how to react. What’s going on? The guide’s English is immaculate, they must know what they just said. Was it a joke?

My friend had a hunch, so he looked in his pocket dictionary for самшит – S-A-M-Sh-I-T – which is the Russian word for “boxwood.”

I think about this story a lot at ATC. If I hear a word or name I’m pretty sure I know how to spell, I always Google it anyway just to be safe. If a speaker says something that doesn’t quite add up, I think about the context. Are these database engineers really saying “sequel” a hundred times, or is there some industry jargon/acronym they’re using? (In this case, SQL.)

As the old Russian proverb goes, trust but verify, otherwise you may end up stuck in самшит.


6 English Words Pronounced Differently Around The US and The World

Do you think you have an accent? Most people would say they don’t, but the truth is that everybody in the world has an accent or a mix of accents. That is one of the main reasons why even the “best” voice recognition software still writes “Edwards” instead of “AdWords” or “Lanning page” instead of “Landing page”.

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8 Words to use instead of “Very” [Infographic]

Words are the currency of communication. A strong vocabulary will make your writing more powerful, improve your comprehension when reading, enhance your interviews, and even help you transcribe faster.

No matter if you are working on your next book or interviewing subjects for research, legal, or academic content, you can start improving your vocabulary today by using this easy guide with 8 options to substitute the word “very”.

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Commas can make or break transcription (or the case of the $10 million comma)

Commas can make or break transcription - ATC Blog
Oakie, Oakhurst’s loveable mascot, seen here seemingly succumbing to exhaustion with a world-weary smile and an absent gaze. Unknown whether overtime was a factor.

In which we ponder how an antiquated Maine labor law, a class-action lawsuit, and a controversial bit of punctuation can make the national news.

Recently, my wife forwarded me a New York Times article about a lawsuit in my home state of Maine. This isn’t a common occurrence, for how often does one really lend much thought to labor disputes in their hometown? But this one had a special flavor to it, that speaks to the risk inherent in subpar transcription.

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The Story of “Farakaveh”

The Story of “Farakaveh” - ATC Blog

Excuse me, which way is “Farakaveh”?

Not too long ago, a member of our production team was reviewing a transcript of an oral history interview before sending the completed work back to the client.

While the work was top-notch as usual, there was one word that just didn’t sit quite right with our eagle-eyed (or nitpicky, however you want to phrase it) production-er and he couldn’t bring himself to press “send.”

Instead, he took a few minutes to listen and re-listen to that little blip of audio but kept hearing the same thing the transcriber had: “Farakaveh.”

Eh, good enough… 

While putting the word in brackets with a question mark to indicate it as a guess and sending off the transcript might have been the next acceptable step, he just couldn’t let it go.

So he brought in some outside expertise, someone with a background that might help decipher the accent of the interviewee — a Jewish, rather Russian and very New Yawk elderly woman.  In this case, that “outside expert” happened to be ATC founder and president, Sandy Poritzky.

Bringing in the “Big Kahuna”

While we couldn’t quite get our top exec to sit down and listen to the audio on a pair of headphones (though we admit it is fun to picture that scenario in our minds), we did the next best thing by putting the printed transcript on his desk.  One quick read and Sandy recognized “Farakaveh” pretty much immediately.  It’s a little neighborhood in Queens, NY.  Probably better known as “Far Rockaway.”

The moral of the story?  

Well, it could be that we go the extra mile (yay!).  Or, it could be that we employ fiendishly detail-oriented and extremely cautious people (they’re our heart and soul!).  Or, it could be that sometimes the big boss actually does have all the answers (shudder).  Mostly, we like to think it illustrates another point: Transcription isn’t always just what you *think* you hear.