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Atomic Scribe

Good Translation Isn’t Free

Good Translation Isn’t Free 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

There are so many different ways to translate things nowadays. You can hire a company who employs linguists, like Atomic Scribe. You can hire a freelancer you aren’t personally acquainted with off the Internet. But probably the most common method today is using free sites, such as Google Translate, to have a machine translate your text and bypass paying an actual human.

The truth is there are a lot of instances when not paying is the best option. Want an article headline translated without needing much accuracy? Google Translate is your best bet. But anything more than that can cause major problems.

In 2014, the Irish government was in hot water for translating a web site commemorating the 1916 Easter Rebellion using Google Translate. The results were “nonsensical,” readers claimed. Though the government said it was a mistake and the text was meant to be replaced by a real translation, the incident shows how far the gulf still is today between human and machine translation.

Why It’s Worth It

Even human translation is fallible. There are so many different ways to translate a single word—let alone a full text—that it can be difficult to figure out the best way to do it.

That’s why Atomic Scribe uses two linguists for every project. This extra step ensures every word is translated and proofed by two native speakers who have created the best translation possible. But they also look at the project as a whole so that context, tone and meaning are consistent with the client’s vision. That’s something machine translation can’t do, and it’s something lowly paid translators are not willing to do if they aren’t paid fairly or at all.

Communication is imperative in every situation in life. Whether you’re a business, an author, a journalist, or just one person, we all need to be able to connect and understand others and be understood in return. Paying for high-quality translation services ensures that happens, without looking foolish or being misunderstood.

The Rise of the Machines

The Rise of the Machines 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

If you’re fond of ’80s movies, chances are you’ve seen what they envisioned the 2010s to look like: full of hovercrafts, futuristic cities, and murderous robot machines. For better or worse, none of those things have become commonplace yet, but we are making strides in the technology department. The self-driving car will soon be commercially available, and our lives are very much devoted to smartphones and the Internet.

Speech Recognition

But why are we so behind on speech recognition? This is a hugely debated topic in the transcription and translation industries, as many don’t want their jobs to become obsolete. Though while that is a worry, the ability for a machine to accurately transcribe or translate will provide cheap access to many who need language services, which would be a huge step forward.

The problem is that language is so, so difficult (especially English) in so many ways. It may seem like speech recognition should be easy to develop, but just think about an elderly person having a conversation with a pre-teen. Even if they’re both speaking English, it can sometimes feel like conversations between two different worlds due to how quickly language evolves, context, and speaking styles.

Machines have this same problem. While we are extremely close to machines being able to understand monotonous, clear English spoken by a single speaker, problems arise when you have recordings with groups of people (which is what we specialize in).

Where Machines Fail

Here’s an example: a market research company is holding a 10-person focus group with folks who do speak English but aren’t native speakers. The group is comprised of teenagers from the rural south. So that’s 10 people, many talking over each other at certain points, who don’t speak English well, use regional dialect, and also use many newly-created words. That’s hard enough for a human to transcribe. But for machines, at this time, it’s not possible to achieve anywhere near 100% accuracy.

In the future, this will likely be solved in some technical way that my non-scientific brain cannot fathom. When it does, Atomic Scribe will evolve, just as language does. For now, it’s best to use human-powered services if you’re looking for accuracy. The rise of the machines will have to wait just a little bit longer.

Language Services Make Sermons Soar

Language Services Make Sermons Soar 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

In the olden days, churches operated very differently than their counterparts of today. It used to be many congregated on a Sunday morning to listen their pastor, and that was the only way to experience the teachings of their church.

But today, the Internet has revolutionized how information is disseminated. Now pastors can record and upload their sermons, turn their messages into podcasts and live streams, and they can interact with their members through social media and their web sites. While this may be daunting to some, it has a huge benefit: it ensures your message is spread near and far. So how can you make sure you’re reaching all those that you can?

Transcription

At Atomic Scribe, one of our favorite things to work on are sermon transcriptions, which we do frequently. Most of our religious clients transcribe their sermons so they can put the text on their web site, which is useful for Deaf followers and those who just prefer reading to listening (which is many).

Using the transcripts can also allow your sermons to be picked up by Google searches, and you can use the transcripts for books, newsletters, blog posts, and for keyword searches. It’s really a small price to pay to have your words indexed so that more people can find you and so that you can reach more people.

Translation

One of the U.S.’s greatest strengths is our diversity. And as we have no official national language, the need for translation services grows as the immigrant population does.

Many churches now have Spanish-speaking followers, among other languages. To make your sermons accessible to these followers as well, use translation services so they can follow along in their native language. It’s a great way to expand your congregation and to be more inclusive.

Spread the Word

In the end, it’s a church’s decision if they want to grow and to take advantage of the new routes the Internet provides to communicate with and reach more people. We promise you’ll find language services useful in spreading your word, and we would love to help. Get a quote today to get started.

Does Size Matter in a Translation Company?

Does Size Matter in a Translation Company? 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

Here’s a question: how many times have you heard a company boast about their size? Can you recall, or is that number too high? It seems as though the biggest grocery store always claims to have the most food. The biggest sporting goods store must have the largest selection of tennis rackets in the world. And, without fail, the most well-known translation companies claim to have the highest number of translators, even numbering in the tens of thousands.

That sounds reassuring at first. With so many translators, surely your translation will be done in a timely fashion and of the highest quality, as there are so many workers to choose from. But is that really the case?

Personal and Professional

A large number of translators often means it’s impossible for an agency to know their translators one-on-one. The translators become a number, just one part of a mass e-mail blast that gets sent out when a project comes in. As such, that means the project manager can’t match up the perfect person for the job. If you don’t know where your translators’ strengths lie, how can you know if they are the best person for the project?

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Although some may suggest otherwise, there is always someone more apt for one project than another person. It could be a technical translation that requires specialized knowledge, or it could be a certain dialect or industry. It could be a poetry project that needs someone familiar with literary translations, or a medical conference with difficult terminology.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and translators are no different. Because of this, knowing your translators personally and matching their strengths to certain projects should be a consideration for all companies. That’s why we suggest taking time to select a translation partner and to learn about who you will potentially be working with. It’s a little effort that will go a long way in helping you achieve the most accurate translation possible.

Why Businesses Should Translate Their Materials

Why Businesses Should Translate Their Materials 2500 1668 Atomic Scribe

Anyone who works with a business knows there are countless numbers of written materials they look over in the course of a day. There’s emails, web sites, reports, contracts, orders, marketing materials, social media, articles, and so much more.

But in the United States, these materials are usually exclusively in English, even though we’re living through a period of non-English language growth that will only increase in the future. That’s millions of consumers businesses might not be reaching.

Increased Reach

It’s imperative to be able to reach as many people as you can with your business. So instead of waiting for a huge percentage of the population to learn English, isn’t it more efficient to translate your materials into popular languages? And since many non-native speakers have difficulty even if they do become proficient in English (let’s face it, English is difficult!), most are more comfortable reading materials in their primary language anyway.

Studies show that 75% of consumers in non-English countries prefer purchasing from sites in their native language, and a whopping 60% say they never or rarely bought from English-only sites. Those are huge numbers.

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Online Presence

So what should you translate? Well, your web site is a good start, as it’s usually the first impression a consumer will have of your business. Glaring mistakes from Google Translate or cheap agencies will also be noticed and can impact credibility, so make sure to use a high-quality service.

It may be beyond your budget to translate all your social media into other languages, but you could occasionally translate some of your tweets or Facebook posts. Likewise, blog posts in other languages will bring more people to your site and allow you to impart your business message to millions more. Remember that consumers don’t Google only in English.

One-Time Cost

Translation is just a one-time cost. You pay once, and then you can disseminate those materials to however many people you want for as long as you want. And by translating your materials into Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German, and other popular business languages, you’re reaching more people, thereby increasing your sales and likely making back your translation investment quickly. Don’t delay and improve your reach today!

Here’s How Your Podcast Can Reach More People

Here’s How Your Podcast Can Reach More People 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

If you’re in the podcasting business or plan to join in, you’ve made a smart move. Podcasts are everywhere these days, with the medium taking over as the likes of Serial, How Stuff Works, the Nerdist, and more have becomes go-to conversation starters.

Why are podcasts becoming so popular? One reason is easy access. Most podcasts are free and can be listened to on one’s phone, so they’re perfect for commutes, while making dinner or while bored at work (not speaking from experience here at Atomic Scribe…).

However, just because podcasts are easy to find, that doesn’t mean they’re accessible to all. If you’re Deaf or hard-of-hearing, there’s little chance for you to join in on the podcast revolution.

That’s where transcription comes in. By simply providing a transcript of your podcast, you reach millions more that can’t listen to your audio.

Transcripts are also useful for those who just prefer reading while they listen or instead of listening entirely, non-English speakers who might need help with some of your content, anyone who wants to quote your podcast on social media or in an article, and to make it easier to translate your podcast into other languages.

Putting a transcript on your site also helps your content be found by Google and other search engines, which brings you a huge amount of potential new followers.

Here’s the thing: you pay for a transcript once and it’s yours to keep forever. You can keep it on your computer and search for keywords and phrases to make sure you’re not repeating yourself in a new episode you’re working on, or you can use the text to write posts, books, and so much more. It’s really a small price to pay to make your podcast accessible to everyone, including yourself!

Building a Relationship With Our Clients

Building a Relationship With Our Clients 2500 1668 Atomic Scribe

Our slogan at Atomic Scribe is “Human-Powered. Professional. Personal.” Those are the three pillars of our business, and it speaks to our number one concern: building a relationship with our clients so that we can better suit their needs.

A lot of businesses these days are moving away from this model thanks to the internet, especially in the language services industry. It’s more efficient for a transcription company to put their order form online, send out the work to transcriptionists through email, and then send the work back to the client, all without speaking to the client or workers personally. This saves time so that the company can work more on increasing sales.

We don’t like to do that at Atomic Scribe, but we’re not antiquated either. We use an online client portal to accept orders, list invoices, send files, and more, but we also interact with our clients as soon as an order is submitted and throughout the duration of the project. This helps us figure out the client’s needs, see how they prefer things done and customize their project to what works best for them. It’s a mix of technology and personalization that ensures we provide the best service we can for each individual client.

Because as much as technology can be de-humanizing, each client is different from every other client, and a language services company needs to spend the time to notice that and deliver tailor-made work. Treating clients as people and not a number in a sea of orders is key to attaining maximum quality and creating a lasting understanding between partners.

Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription

Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

There are a lot of transcription companies out there, so how do you choose the one that’s best for you? In this piece we’ll lay out some key differences between Atomic Scribe and Rev, a popular company that we used for four focus groups to test out their transcription quality. Rev boasts prices of $1/audio min, no matter the audio quality or length. Here’s what we found.

Rev Has No Real Delivery Deadline

Although it is stated on Rev’s site that orders are generally delivered in 24 hours, it actually depends on the file. We also found that they did not give us status updates on a file’s progress in a timely fashion, which can be extremely worrying for those with a deadline.

For example, one of our focus groups files was ordered on Jan. 31st and labeled by Rev as due on Feb. 3rd (already well past 24 hours)… but it wasn’t delivered until three days later on Feb. 6th. That’s a whole week from the initial order date, which is longer than our standard turnaround time. No discount or refund was offered.

At Atomic Scribe, deadlines are important. We have three tiers (rush, standard and discount), and we adhere to whichever tier the client chooses. But sometimes files are harder than expected and more time is needed, in which case we always contact the client immediately and ask if this is acceptable. We also provide a discount if a deadline extension is necessary.

Speaker ID Inaccuracy

Limited speaker ID is included in Rev’s low price, but unfortunately most IDs were unhelpful. While some speakers were correctly identified as “Male” or “Female”, other times names were used as labels sporadically. Basically, there was no uniformity.

In one transcript the speakers were labeled Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Speaker 3, etc. However, it was clear from a re-listen that the transcriptionist could not actually tell the speakers apart and that many labels were incorrect. A good example of this is the number of identified speakers went up to 6 when there was actually 8 participants, but no Speaker 7 or Speaker 8 were found in the transcript (yet they were found by our own transcriptionists).

At Atomic Scribe, we see that as a waste of time. Yes, we charge more for speaker ID, but with that extra charge we come as close to 100% accuracy as we can get. There’s no point in having speaker ID at all if it isn’t accurate, and there should always be the option to add it to an order if it’s helpful to the client. It should also be uniform and not a different format in every transcript.

Too Many Inaudibles

One transcript (the one not delivered until a week after ordering) actually had 337 inaudibles! When our transcriptionist finished it on a re-listen, there was—no joke—10 inaudibles left. There were also quite a few inaudibles across the transcripts that were easily found by just doing research, such as a town or company name.

We’ll admit our audio wasn’t perfect and focus groups are hard, but that’s why most companies charge more for multi-speaker files and pay their transcriptionists more for them. A flat fee system like Rev uses treats all files the same, which hurts transcript quality.

Low Pay Scale

After we received the transcripts from Rev, we were curious about their transcriptionists. First off, U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to work for Rev. That could mean a larger amount of foreign workers whose native language isn’t English.

We also found out that Rev pays their transcriptionists on average less than half what we pay ours (according to their own site), which probably accounts for the inaudibles. After all, if a worker isn’t receiving a fair wage, what incentive do they have to turn in a good transcript? If their contract is terminated, there are plenty of other companies that pay the same wages as Rev (and many that pay better).

Lower Quality

The transcripts widely ranged in quality. Some transcripts were acceptable, but some had to be almost completely redone. And that’s what is reasonable to expect from a low-cost service, as is expected in every industry. You know you will never receive the best quality, but you hope and pray that you won’t receive the worst either.

That might be okay for some of your projects. But for a higher price (that you only pay once), you get peace of mind, accuracy, correct speaker ID, uniform formatting, communication, research of names and companies, and skilled transcriptionists. It seems to us an easy choice to make.

Note: We confirm that we paid full price for Rev’s services for files in 2014 and are not affiliated with the company. This is a truthful review with no attempt to distort facts.

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important?

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important? 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

What? Transcription is converting a recorded video or audio track into a written format, such as a Word document. Most companies offer verbatim transcription, where every single thing uttered is written down, including “uh,” “um,” and other such filler words. Clean edited verbatim takes out those filler words to ensure a smoother transcript.

Who? Transcription may sound easy initially, but anyone who has sat down to do a transcript realizes quickly that transcription takes a lot of time, energy and skill.

That’s why professional transcriptionists who have trained in the field for years are so important. Transcriptionists not only are trained to be able to make out difficult audio, but they also must have an impressive knowledge of grammar. Additionally, they must know how to research terms that they hear to find correct matches for spelling and context, like if an interviewee casually mentions an acronym or a prescription drug name. Incorrectly transcribing a term can confuse the speaker’s intent, which is a big problem.

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Why? Now to the big question: why is transcription necessary? Is it just an extra cost? Well, no. Transcripts can be used for so many different purposes that it would take too much time to list them all.

But the fact is transcripts are often faster to read than the time it takes to listen to audio or video. It’s also easier to distribute to other people, like clients or coworkers. The text can show up in Google searches, unlike audio or video. The Deaf or hard-of-hearing need transcripts to experience content, and many other people just prefer reading to listening.

We work with companies and individuals in the legal, entertainment, market research, police, government, radio, church, and other fields to make their content easily accessible to all, because that is the main point of transcripts. It’s a one-time cost for content that you can keep forever and use in multiple ways. Make sure you take advantage of transcription services so you don’t miss out.

The Seri Language: Recent Growth Against the Odds

The Seri Language: Recent Growth Against the Odds 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

The Seri language is spoken by the Seri people in northwestern Mexico, in two small communities along the Gulf of California. It has no known related language, and a written alphabet was not published until the 1950s.

In contrast to most languages with few speakers, the Seri language has actually grown over the last century. While there were believed to be just 200 Seri people in the 1920s, as of 2015 it is estimated that there are between 600 and 1,000 native speakers.

No known language that exists still today is related to Seri, making it an isolated language. Some have theorized it is a part of the Hokan language family, though this has been rebuffed by scholars who see few links between the languages.

Language Complexity

The isolation has made Seri a fascinating language. It is comprised of 18 consonants and eight vowels, and it has a very large lexicon. Kinship, for example, has over 50 primary terms, making it one of the most extensive lexicons in any language in the world.

Another complexity is the use of plurals. Explained by Stephen A. Marlett in the Journal of the Southwest:

“Unlike languages that either do not have any indicator of number (some Zapotec languages in Oaxaca, for example), or just add the suffix –m to the noun (as some neighboring Uto-Aztecan languages in Sonora, such as Yaqui), or usually add –s (like English), Seri flourishes here. In fact, every noun and verb has to have its plural listed in the dictionary because one simply has to learn it.

In Seri, one could ask for a couple of dozen words at random and never see a common way for plurals to be formed. Verbs are similar in that they have different forms depending on whether the action was done by one person or more than one, and whether the action was repeated or not repeated (roughly speaking). And these forms display about the same kind of complexity as the nouns.”

Eclectic Serian Expressions

Seri also has some truly great expressions. From National Geographic, one such example is “Miixöni quih zó hant ano tiij?” which translates to “Where is your placenta buried?” The phrase is meant to ask where someone is from, as before hospital births the Seri people would bury the afterbirth in the ground and mark the burial spot, never forgetting where it lay.

Want to learn more about the Seri language? A good place to start is Marlett’s article, which looks at the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of the language. The Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico also has a good list of resources on the small, yet extensive language.