Transcription of 535 minutes of audio files
Thread poster: elodienelson (X)

elodienelson (X)
Local time: 05:41
English to French
Oct 7, 2010

An agency asked me if i could handle the transcription of a 535 mns (9 hours) audio file, but I've never done that. The files are to be ready by Sunday EOB, is that enough? I have express scribe, but I don't have a pedal, so I think it's going to be difficult.

Any advice/guidance?

Many thanks !


Emilia Prekate-Kyminas
Local time: 06:41
English to Greek
+ ...
Very difficult to do this in such a short time Oct 7, 2010

Elodie, if the content of the audio files is dense, it's going to be very difficult to do it by Sunday. You can do, from my experience, an hour per day (using the software), provided you are concentrated and that you do nothing else. However, I believe that it all depends on how "dense" are the files. I believe that you should ask for more time, if possible. Good luck!


Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:41
French to English
Ask for an audio sample Oct 7, 2010


I honestly think you need to listen to a sample before you can estimate how long the whole process is going to take. A couple of years ago, I agreed to transcribe about 10 audio files, each of which lasting no more than 5 minutes. The agency asked me how long it would take, and I didn't respond until they had provided the files - I gave a very generous estimate based on what I had heard and even then, I added that my estimate could be wildly off.

I thought it would be a piece of cake, but as it happens, it took ages (I lot longer than I initially thought) due to a combination of factors, such as poor overall audio quality, non-native speakers with strong accents and loud surrounding noise (such as an interview conducted inside an open-top jeep while it was being driven at speed along a busy road)!! It was so time-consuming and hard on the ears (imagine wearing headphones all day and constantly having to replay unclear passages) that I vowed I would never do another transcription again.

When you say the files are to be ready by Sunday EOB, do you mean that the audio files will be made available by Sunday EOB or that you will need to send your transcription by Sunday EOB? If it's the latter, I personally don't think it's possible, unless you can instantaneously type what you're hearing. Nine hours seems a tall order. Hopefully someone with more experience than me at transcribing will give you some advice. Good luck.



Etienne Kouakou  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:41
English to French
+ ...
Audio Tapes Oct 7, 2010


Avant de faire quoi que ce soit, je demanderais à entendre un échantillon de ces cassettes. Si le son est de bonne qualité, tout est possible. Dans le cas contraire, il te faudra beaucoup de temps pour transcrire 9 heures d'audio.

Bonne chance!



elodienelson (X)
Local time: 05:41
English to French
thanks Oct 7, 2010

I've just listened to a sample, and I've realized it would be impossible to perform a transcription by Sunday (yes, the deadline was supposed to be on Sunday). According to what I've read on forums, I knew it wouldn't be possible, so I've turned down the job 5 minutes ago. But thank you for answering and sharing your experience, I'm sure some people will think this post is useful in the future !

Have a good evening,



whither had (X)
Local time: 05:41
French to English
pedal! Oct 7, 2010

Hi Elodie,

Very interesting question. Simon is absolutely right. You need to know how much work there is and don't agree to anything without listening to a sample audio tape.

If you are dealing with professional speakers, translating this way is a dream. But you would need a pedal. Otherwise you will be distracted, having to take your hand off the keyboard to press "restart".

If you do touch typing this will lower your speed considerably.

I was offered a job one like this and of course asked for a sample audio tape. Quite often the speakers had their backs to the microphone.......quesswork, frustration, time wasted and no real satisfaction. I decided to turn it down.

Apart from the quality of the recording you would need to see how fast the speaker goes. Some poeple speak very fast and very well, which is fine, but it could double the number of words per hour.

So for the moment, you have no idea what 9 hours of audio tape actually means.

If this is a really good recording it might be a good idea to invest in a CD player with accompanying pedal. Last time I looked this came to about 1 000 € but I am convinced that you could get the equipment for less than that.

Otherwise it is a terrific way to work. After all, you can use your ears, eyes and hands (and one foot!) all to the same purpose. It really does improve concentration, effeciency and speed.

The quality of the audio recording is the major factor. You wouldnt want to translate from a text with words missing or sentences that were illegible, right?

I hope you will let us know how this works out for you.

Good luck and Happy translating.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:41
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I don't think so Oct 7, 2010

élodie chatelais wrote:
An agency asked me if i could handle the transcription of a 535 mns (9 hours) audio file, but I've never done that. The files are to be ready by Sunday EOB, is that enough? I have express scribe, but I don't have a pedal, so I think it's going to be difficult.

The foot pedal makes your life easier but I think if you're used to using the F keys, it won't be a lot slower than the foot pedal (but I'm guessing here).

If these files are in excellent condition and it takes you a mere 6 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio (instead of 8 hours or 10 hours), it would still take 54 hours. You can't transcribe more than 6 or possibly 7 hours a day (even if you are willing to work long hours), so that means... it'll take at least 8 days to complete. Add one day for smoothing out any rough edges.


Abdurrahman Asal  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
English to Arabic
+ ...
No way! Oct 7, 2010

I've done a couple of transcription jobs before and what I learned from them is the following:

- Too time-consuming: possible daily workload ranges from 40 minutes to one audio hour.

- Too exhausting: it requires so much concentration and mental effort. It's a more difficult kind of work compared to translation for example.

- Quality of the audio material is a very important factor that has to be taken into account: There will be some interferring or inelligible parts during the course of the audio file due to multiplicity of speakers, strong accents of non-native speakers, use of local dialects or background sounds; the thing that will require you to replay it many times and raise the voice in order to make sense of what is being said.


[Edited at 2010-10-07 21:05 GMT]


Steve Booth  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:41
Member (2007)
English to Arabic
+ ...
definitely not Oct 7, 2010

there are two many factors to take into consideration I generally work on a ratio of about 6hours to 1 hour of audio. The only problem is this could be longer depending on the speaker, the audio quality the accent whether you are required to transcribe into the original language or straight into the target language. If you are doing a transcript into the source language that then needs translating as well thisis extra time you need to factor in etc.

I must admit i hate giving quotes for audio as they always want to be quoted per minute of audio when it could be 6 minutes work or more than double that.

Also i would be very wary about samples i got asked to quote on something and was sent a couple of examples after listening to them and basing my quote on the quality i received the rest of the material I had to go back to the agnecy and turn them down as the audio quality on the other files was terrible

but to get back on to your question i would think 9 hours of audio would need about 6 to 9 days even with a footpedal


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 21:41
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oct 8, 2010

[Edited at 2010-10-08 15:05 GMT]


Tony M
Local time: 05:41
French to English
+ ...
Not very experienced in this, but... Oct 8, 2010

I suspect it would be quicker, if feasible, to have the audio (or video) transferred to electronic format, simply because it is faster to move around than if you have to rewind tape, etc.

When I was doing transcription off cassettes, I found the greatest waste of time was when I had to go back over something, and wait for the machine's reaction time; plus I also find it extremely helpful to be able to slow down the playback, since sometimes that can help make indecipherable bits clearer.

So I would certainly allow the extra time preparing for the job by transferring all the material to digital files. It's great if you have a geeky friend to whom you can outsource this activity!


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:41
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Gamepad + industrial footswitch Oct 14, 2010

Express Scribe can work with most HID - USB or gameport - controllers, so if you hook up an industrial foot switch, available for USD 20+ (or two - for rewind) with a simple gamepad (USD 15+), you can have an almost professional set for almost nothing.

A bit of soldering is required, but it should be fairly easy...


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Transcription of 535 minutes of audio files

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