Experiences with speech recognition software

Since a few months I’m using Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. What? I talk to my computer via a microphone and ‘it’ (the software) turns my speech (voice dictation) into words (it writes out what I’m saying). Sounds fun/ easy / fast? Read on, I’m sharing the doubts & benefits of this tool!

Finding & being able to use this program helps me out a lot. As of May 2013 I’ve got ‘bursitis’, an inflammation in my shoulder that gradually decreases, but nevertheless easily acts up if I type too much. Somehow you learn to live with it as the pain decreases too, but writing (=typing) a lot is dangerous & hurtful.

[Note that the program is also a regular solution for RSI ‘victims’]

Imagine the look on my face when I was facing the challenge of transcribing 24 interviews… At first I tried with apps on my iPhone (V-dictate & the Dragon app), but you can’t really edit nicely on these + typing out an interview (about 8-9 pages in Word at least?) takes up a lot of space / time.
So, it took me three weeks to convince my supervisor how hard I needed this program, but there were two problems already:
a) there’s a separate version for Windows & Mac (windows – my work station at the office – Mac – my home work station software)
b) lucky me! I work at university/ as a student/ as employee you get a discount (150euro for ‘two profiles’, which means the software can be installed on two computers)

Besides getting the software, I somehow had to obtain a laptop with Windows that I could take home with me – I’m sharing an office with three others: Imagine me dictating my interviews to my computer in a room where people want to grade/ write/ whatever. Thus, if ever getting the program: you’ll need a place where you don’t disturb colleagues.

==> All these things worked out eventually and I could start using the program. A few observations:

– I like the program, it works quite well & after 5 transcriptions it was pretty much used to my ‘voice’ and my ‘speech’ (I have an accent in Dutch, and somehow the computer needs to learn/ can learn and understand what I mean). This is also why it’s very advisable to take the first run-through seriously, this is the first moment you have to read a text to the program which it then analyzes / learns to understand your voice.

– Yet, as it only offers you to dictate in one language it won’t recognize English words when the majority I’m dictating is in Dutch (or the other way around.. imagine you writing in English and wanting to add German words for instance). For me this meant that I had to teach the program words like ‘Backstreet Boys’ or ‘Guilty Pleasure’ or ‘New Kids on the Block’, as these are terms that often pop up in my interviews. It’s also horrible with names and places, but you can try to learn it to the program via the ‘add to lexicon’ option. Take your time for this.

It’s not flawless. Even after the program understands you + after you’ve learned it ‘foreign’ words it will still make mistakes and mess up. You’ll always need to read through what it ‘wrote’ (or rather ‘translated’), and I advise you to do so after every chunks of text you add. After a while you as a speaker get tired and pronounce the words less clear or sometimes the program just doesn’t understand/ picks it up too slow.. Stuff happens, but it gives you a good laugh as well.

It’s not time-saving: Don’t buy it to save time on transcriptions or typing out articles. It won’t help you with that. It’s just as time consuming as typing: a) you need to dictate in a certain pace or you’ll be super tired after 15 minutes (the first times I literally had a sore throat in the evening of speaking – concentrated – for 5 hours). You’ll need as much (maybe a little less) time than when typing. I’m able to dictate/ edit 10 minutes in an hour (if I’m really on a roll, I can do 12-14 minutes an hour).

– Take breaks: the earphones get annoying / save regularly / drink a lot of water (for your throat!)!

– Does it help? Yes. I can dictate & correct, which in the end comes down to maybe a full 30 minutes of typing instead of 5/6 hours. So, after working with Dragon I still have time to type/ grade manually, because I save my shoulder/arm/hand muscles from typing.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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