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Tips on understanding accents and dialects from Fingertips Typing

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Tips on Understanding Accents and Dialects

Posted By Cathy Bennett

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One of the hardest things for a transcriber is deciphering different accents and dialects. As the world becomes more multi-cultural and the lines between countries and regions blurred, understanding new people can be hard and sometimes confusing.

Accents vary greatly.  According to Expedia there are 56 accents across the UK and Ireland alone[1], let alone the rest of the globe.

Accents vs. Dialects

An accent is defined as the phonetic traits of an individual’s native language carried over into a second non-native language. A dialect is a variation of a language spoken in a given geographical region.

It really is quite amazing that one language can have so many variations.

Here are our tips on understanding accents and dialects:

  1. Familiarisation – One of the best ways to familiarise yourself with a new accent or dialect (for example a Scottish accent) is to watch videos and listen to audio files recorded in the ethnic Scottish accent. Why not practice transcribing such a video first by yourself before taking up any actual professional transcribing work for a client? By doing a bit of homework initially, you’ll be in a better position to understand what’s being said and of course, feel more comfortable transcribing even if the file has been recorded in an accent you are not accustomed to.
  2. Learn Some Key Phrases: This is probably one of the most important things you can do, especially if your clients are from outside of the UK. Learning some key phrases of the foreign language will help you understand their phonetics and rhythm which will in turn help you understand their variation of bilingual English.
  3. Slow down the audio – If you are having a hard time understanding a section of recording, slow it down, breaking it up into smaller syllables will make it easier to understand.
  4. Listen to at least an hour of the foreign language a day – This will familiarise you with the phonetics, rhythm and sentence structure of the speakers’ native language.

Remember: Everyone’s accent is foreign in some part of the world, so do not be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling.

Don’t give up. Remember the context of what you are transcribing


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