Off topic: Learning to type
Thread poster: Olly Pekelharing

Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:26
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Sep 1, 2011

Not sure if this is the place for this topic, but here we go...

I'm one of those typists that pounds away with two fingers and would be able to increase my output enormously if I learned to touch-type. All the courses I've looked at train you using texts of their own devising (for good reasons). However, I was thinking, if you're looking at 30 hours plus to get the basics of touch-typing, and more to master it, isn't there a way to learn using your own texts, i.e. while translating at the same time (obviously if the deadline allows for it)? Anyone have any tips? Also like to hear from you if you can recommend a really good course in case the above idea isn't feasible!


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 12:26
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Of course Sep 1, 2011

That's a good idea. There is no point in spending 10 hours a week learning to touch type and then spending 30 hours a week reinforcing your old bad habits (typing with your two-finger technique for work).
When I learned to touch-type, all I did was:
- Get an idea of which finger hits what button and how you're supposed to hold your hands. I don't follow typing manuals fully, because some of what they tell you to do is absolute rubbish, but most of it makes sense.
- Try the practice tasks (aaa sss ddd fff asdf asdf asdf) for 10 minutes, realize they are silly and they will never work.
- Play typing games for hours on end, forcing myself not to look at the keyboard.*
- Start touch typing some of my work. At first, it gets on your nerves and you can only stick with it for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, if that. Then switch back to your old style to actually get work done and touch type again 30 minutes later when you are less inclined to smash your keyboard.

I used to type at 40 words per minute, using 4 or 5 fingers. When I started touch typing, I struggled to hit 20. Now I'm at around 75 on typeracer. 75 isn't fast but it's a very noticeable improvement from 40 and it's still sneaking upwards. Do a typeracer test if you want to see how much you have to gain.

Remember, good posture helps. Straight back, straight wrists, keyboard preferably at least two feet lower than your screen. A good keyboard doesn't hurt, either, but that's another story.

* Typeracer, typer shark and the typingmaster bubble game. No links for the sake of forum peace, google them if you're interested. Don't register, don't download anything. They'll work in your browser.

[Edited at 2011-09-01 17:26 GMT]


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Speech recognition Sep 1, 2011

You are an ideal candidate for switching away from typing towards speech recognition – in effect your computer becomes an audio typist. There is a learning curve – but less than learning to touch type. With speech recognition, your productivity increases both in quantity and quality.

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Richard Foulkes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
German to English
+ ...
You could get a CD-ROM Sep 1, 2011

There are lots of 'teach yourself to type' CD-ROM out there (maybe even websites). That's how I learned. Very frustrating but it worked.

30 hours isn't a big investment if you're going to be working for another 30 years - half an hour a day for 2 weeks... If you start using 8 fingers instead of 2, the investment will pay itself back very quickly!


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Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:26
Member (2009)
English to Polish
+ ...
Also relevant Sep 1, 2011

I tried learning to touch type once or twice, but I gave up. The reason was that you start with a few keys and then add new ones as you go on. You are supposed to keep your fingers in the correct position all the time, even when you are not practising. Now, that makes any professional translation completely inefficient for most of the learning period, which could take at least a few weeks (I guess). I was wondering if anyone has been more successful and could share their experience?

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Sindy Cremer

Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
websites Sep 1, 2011

Olly, I have no idea whether these are of any use (I learnt to touch-type many years ago) but I stumbled upon these websites and they do seem to teach the basics...

http://www.typeonline.co.uk/index.html

http://www.typelesonline.nl/NL/Aspx/Start.aspx

good luck!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:26
Chinese to English
I say suck it up Sep 1, 2011

You have to concentrate on learning to type. It doesn't happen automatically. I type up to ten hours a day, several days a week, and my typing isn't getting any better. To improve you need some kind of stimulus, so get a website/software/teacher, and just accept that this is an investment you have to make.

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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:26
Member (2004)
English to Polish
It's worth it! Sep 1, 2011

I've also decided to learn touch typing while I was already working as a translator.

I will be honest with you - it was not easy. It is absolutely essential that when you learn it's the only way you type! You see, it is as much getting new habits as kicking the old ones. If you try to do both, you will just confuse your poor brain.

The good news, it might take faster than you think. In a way, you already know the key positions, you just learn to use them differently. I would say that a week should be enough to go through the basics (finger placement, finger assignments, chording etc.).

After that, you can indeed use your own work to practice. You just need to assume that your capacity will be at 1/10 (seriously!) of your normal output. Ideally, you should choose for this a project when the deadline is very long or there is no deadline at all. Again, when you start doing it right, you have to keep to it. Do not cheat - if you sneak in a few pages done "the old way", the whole process will take much longer.

However, it is really worth it. Not only you will translate faster - you will translate better. At least I know I do - when I translated with two fingers (it was four, really, up to six, but still looking at the keyboard), my train of thought was sometimes interrupted while I fumbled for the right key. The brilliant things I had almost there then vanished somewhere...

When you type fast and have the text researched properly beforehand (here I fail, sadly, quite often), you can just go with the flow, words stream from your fingers - you finally translate with your mind, not your hands. Come to think of it, I guess dictating must feel the same or better...

Finally, when you get to speed, you can use your new skills for a much more serious purpose:

http://play.typeracer.com/

Go get them!

[Edited at 2011-09-01 20:43 GMT]


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Aleksandar Gasic
Montenegro
Local time: 12:26
English to Serbo-Croat
+ ...
spend some time online Sep 1, 2011

Jabberwock wrote:

It is absolutely essential that when you learn it's the only way you type! You see, it is as much getting new habits as kicking the old ones. If you try to do both, you will just confuse your poor brain.


Definitely. It will go slow at first, but speed will increase in time. You'll be tempted to say "f... this, I type three times faster with my two fingers", but do not give up.

Try googling for some free touch- typing tutors. You can find a lot of them (freeware) on the Internet, some are on-line tutors, some can be downloaded (and most of them are rather small, biggest I saw was about 7MB), and some let you add your own texts. I learned to type with one such free little software, and it was not one bit worse than if I had taken some expensive lessons. Major advantage with software (vs. books) is that they can track your progress/errors in real time, so you learn faster and it is less boring.

Check out http://typingsoft.com/all_typing_tutors.htm and pick some. A friend of mine used Kiran's, which is quite decent, but do experiment a bit.


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:26
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
No special touch-typing teacher software needed Sep 2, 2011

Olly,

I say, take the dive!

I learned to touch-type some 10 years ago, which took me a total of perhaps 2-3 weeks. Then it was just a matter of improving typing speed.

At the beginning, I used a demo version of a touch-typing teacher application which only taught me a first 10 or 12 keys on the middle alphanumeric row. I learned the rest myself. Luckily, I had a slower business period at the time, plus translation was not my only job then. I think learning to touch-type in a slower period is a good idea because you don't have to stress yourself with tight deadlines and you can let the thing come to you naturally.

But my story is not the whole story. When my wife saw how quickly I was able to touch-type, she decided to switch. And guess what, she did! She just started to touch-type and got the hang of it within a few weeks! Now she can touch-type just about as fast as I can.

As a side note, and speaking from experience, choosing the right keyboard is extremely important both for ergonomics and for typing speed. Personally, I swear by low profile curved keyboards, and switching to my first curved keyboard, a sturdy Logitech that would serve me for 5 years amid not-always-clean fingers, breadcrumbs and coffee spills, boosted my productivity by 15-20%.

BTW, if anybody wants to go the full monty with their keyboard, I suggest having a look at this: http://tinyurl.com/43he2jo
I first saw the gizmo at a friend's, who's been using it for almost a decade now. It's a completely flat, zero-force keyboard where you type by simply tapping your fingers on what physically is a board! The key layout is 100% customizable, so you can have any key nearly anywhere you want on the board (as long as it doesn't overlap with another key, that is). Plus you can define your own pinches, swipes (single or multi-fingered) as shortcuts to most frequently used features/key combinations.

To sum up: Go for it and you'll never regret!

Maciek


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 12:26
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Keyboard Sep 5, 2011

Maciek Drobka wrote:

As a side note, and speaking from experience, choosing the right keyboard is extremely important both for ergonomics and for typing speed.

Agreed.

Maciek Drobka wrote:
BTW, if anybody wants to go the full monty with their keyboard, I suggest having a look at this: http://tinyurl.com/43he2jo
I first saw the gizmo at a friend's, who's been using it for almost a decade now. It's a completely flat, zero-force keyboard where you type by simply tapping your fingers on what physically is a board!


I'm not sure why you're recommending a keyboard you're not using yourself, but that keyboard is the typist's worst nightmare. The gesture features may be nice for webbrowsing or certain types of creative work, but for touch typing, you want a keyboard with clearly defined keys and good tactile feedback, not a flat board.
Any serious typist should have a mechanical keyboard. The usual suspects are:
- IBM Model M
- Something with Cherry MX brown or blue switches, like a das keyboard, a Cherry or a Filco.
Companies like Logitech only make rubber dome and scissor switch keyboards, which provide mediocre typing feel at best, and deteriorate quickly.


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:26
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 5, 2011

FarkasAndras wrote:

Maciek Drobka wrote:
BTW, if anybody wants to go the full monty with their keyboard, I suggest having a look at this: http://tinyurl.com/43he2jo
I first saw the gizmo at a friend's, who's been using it for almost a decade now. It's a completely flat, zero-force keyboard where you type by simply tapping your fingers on what physically is a board!


I'm not sure why you're recommending a keyboard you're not using yourself, but that keyboard is the typist's worst nightmare. The gesture features may be nice for webbrowsing or certain types of creative work, but for touch typing, you want a keyboard with clearly defined keys and good tactile feedback, not a flat board.

...



I must tell my friend that he's been using the wrong type of keyboard all these years!!!

Don't you ever recommend something you don't use yourself, just because you trust other people's opinion? I once spent a morning with that friend, who demonstrated what the typist's worst nightmare can do. It was a nightmare I wouldn't have dreamed of waking up from.

Maciek


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Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:26
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 7, 2011

Thanks all for your tips. Now I just need to find a gap in the workload to start practising!

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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
English
+ ...
It's worth it Sep 7, 2011

I typed all my essays and dissertation at uni using two fingers, and was fairly fast, but then I did a postgrad which involved a lot more typing.

One of the tutors recommended a touch typing programme called Accutype (gives away my age, but it ran in DOS). It had all the usual senseless exercises, but they're designed to get you to know the key positions and the correct fingers to use rather than working to sensible word patterns. It's all about muscle memory, and eventually, it will become an unconscious reflex. These programmes also teach you to use the non-text keys properly, so you don't lose time searching for the @ or * etc.

You will notice that you slow down a lot to begin with, but after a few days, your speed will improve dramatically. As Jabberwock said, once you start, try not to go back to two-finger typing at all, because that will prolong the time it takes to re-programme your reflexes.


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