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Why I Became a Voice Captionist

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julie captioning

Why I Became a Voice Transcriptionist
by: Julie Balog


So why would a 48 year-old mother of two and teacher of English for 25 years possibly think about doing something new career wise? Was I bored in my current job teaching for College of Court Reporting? Nope. I love it! But when our school started the voice program, I began to become more and more intrigued with the possibility of perhaps taking my skills as an English teacher AND my voice skills, honed from 15 years of pushing dictation out succinctly and quickly in speeds up to 200 wpm+,  and using them in a job that would be enjoyable to me and provide a much-needed service to the deaf and hard and hearing members of our community. And, yes, the hours for me as a part-time voice transcriptionist were convenient, allowed me some extra income, and still let me do the job I love, which is teaching!


After thinking about the possibilities that a job as a voice captioner could offer my family and my students currently at CCR, and from some inspiring words and encouragement from a dear friend telling me you can do anything you set your mind to, I took our school's two-semester voice  program  in 2014, and in June of 2015, I took a position with Caption Colorado!


Voice writing is very similar to what our reporters and captioners do on their machines. The exception? I am using my voice instead of my fingers, and everything I do is from my home office. I hear the audio via a headset plugged into my computer and translate that via my voice into my microphone.  Caption Colorado uses its own version of Eclipse software and Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software to capture my spoken words in real time on my screen.  The deaf or hard of hearing participant is dialed in along with me to our meeting or school classroom and they are able on their computer too see the text of their webinar or class right on their computer screens.


A question I get often, is it like steno writing? It  is and isn't. It is in that I also use a "shorthand" of briefs and phrases like steno writers do. For example, instead of writing "forward looking statements," I say "flasts," and my computer brings up that phrase.  Whereas the steno writer will write in his or her symbol for the period or comma for their punctuation, I have to voice that in with my briefs, "peerk" and "kah."
Another question I get often is, Can it get fast? You bet! As fast as it gets for steno writers. Luckily, my many years of speed building with my students in speeds of 60-225 got my voice used to doing that. Another thing that is very tricky is making sure I am a few words behind my speaker in the audio. Getting too far behind though can mean the difference of 5-10 dropped words. Sound familiar?  


Right now, I am not captioning television, just meetings for private businesses, organizations,  and government entities, and doing CART work for school classrooms. TV is also much more fast-paced. I hope to do that soon!
What equipment do you need to do this? I have a very high speed laptop, large enough to support the software and programs needed to capture voice and video; I have two monitors as there are many screens open for me as I work, and I have a land-line phone, to make sure I always have a connection even with power out. I also just use a headset and microphone that plugs into my computer to receive my audio from the meetings and classes.  


My day usually consists of anywhere from 2-5 jobs, each averaging anywhere from a half hour to 2 hours in length. After I dial in, do my hook ups, and caption my event, I disconnect and send my transcript to my employer. A record is usually saved of every event except for those where the client marks it as confidential. But because my work was for the deaf or hard of hearing client, my work is most important in how it looks in real time.  I spend some time during the week also correcting my "notes" or rough copy and teaching my software how to recognize my voice for better recognition. Currently, I am averaging about 99.3% accuracy.  The captioning I do in most of my jobs does not need to be verbatim, so the accuracy speeds are something else that differs  from a steno writer. We do something called "paraphrasing" what we hear. We want to get in as much as we can to keep the  integrity of the words spoken, but we are allowed to drop or change words here and there to attain the speed and keep the meaning. We have the same word pair recognition troubles as do steno writers: i.e., their/there/they're, our/hour/are, you're/your, etc.


I am also asked this last question, Is it stressful and what's the worst part of the job? Yes, I still do get nervous. I want to do a good job for our clients, so I do get a bit antsy at the start of each new job, but once I get my rhythm and flow, it all goes well.  What is the worst part? For a voice captioner, nothing kills your mojo more than a poor audio setup or connection. You can't speak what you can't hear.


I am very happy I decided to pursue this as an extension of what I have been doing for future court reporters and captioners at our school for the past 25 years. I enjoy the different people I get to hear every day in my jobs, I love the flexibility Caption Colorado offers me with my schedule with my family and teaching, and most of all, I feel I am doing something that is much needed for a portion of our community that may have been very limited before.


If you want to reach out to me with any questions or comments, I would love to share more with you!

Julie Balog
julie.balog@ccr.edu

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