terptree: What does a Speech-to-Text Reporter do?

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

What does a Speech-to-Text Reporter do?

An insight into Amanda Bavin's (registered with NRCPD) experience as a speech to text reporter:


Amanda Bavin is a freelance fully-qualified Speech-to-Text Reporter/Stenographer, living near Stansted airport.  Amanda worked for the BBC for eight years both in London and Plymouth as a live realtime Stenographer/Subtitler, where she learnt many skills as a realtime writer with excellent training. (Previous to learning Stenography Amanda worked at the Bank of England and worked her way up from a typist to PA in the Deputy Governor's Office). Since leaving the BBC, she has worked, for nearly ten years, with deaf and deafened clients – her jobs have ranged from "cup of tea style" meeting in clients' flats with their bosses to attending at No. 11 Downing Street, and then working in a theatre the next day - “my skills have to be very flexible!”

“The BBC training gave me grounding in the importance of accuracy of subtitles, the English language and teamwork.  I am willing to travel within the UK and abroad offering a professional service - always reliable, trust-worthy and impartial.” 


I am a Speech-to-Text Reporter (and a Stenographer).  STT Reporter is the umbrella term for both Stenographers and Palantypists, we use different shorthand machines and theories but the output is the same on a laptop.  It is a service provided mainly for people who have any kind of hearing loss, whether complete or partial. 

My introduction to stenography was bizarrely through TV.  I used to watch lots of 1950s black and white films starring the one and only Cary Grant (and sometimes James Stewart) as a teenager and saw court stenographers and loved the idea of learning the machine.  


So once I had finished GCSEs I went with my parents to Baker Street College where they were teaching Stenography.  I had my first real glimpse of a Stentura stenography machine and the strange charts on the wall with the keyboard layout - TPH-KWR etc.  However I could not afford the private course at that time so I stayed on at college to do a Secretarial course and then got a good job at the Bank of England and worked my way up: to finally work in the Deputy Governor's Office. 

After a few years of working in the City at various law firms, I still wanted to do something else and so rang the Baker Street College who put me in touch with Kensington College of Business who were then running the course.  I switched to working evenings in the City and studied Stenography Full-Time pretty soon after finding out about the course.  I absolutely loved learning the theory (and still do! I am still learning years later on how to shorten theory and make myself faster and more accurate). The course was full-time for one year, and then I managed to get immediately into working for the BBC as a trainee Stenographer.  Their training took another six months and then I would say a good few years working in their regional offices (Plymouth) to get any good for live on-air subtitles.  I then moved back to London in the year 2000 and learnt a lot from the London pool of Stenographers who were highly experienced.  My favourite part of the job (working as a freelancer) is that we are directly working with the people who benefit from the work, i.e. my laptop is there, and I am present, working alongside someone and helping someone to do their job.  The direct relationship and vast variety of places that I visit makes my career so enjoyable.


Most STTs work as freelancers in a variety of situations at all levels.  Text is typed on a Stenography or Palantype machine (I currently use the very quiet Elan Cybra).  I have software which helps translate the shorthand into English for clients to read on my laptop - I use OpenWrite, but there are other types of software that are popular like Eclipse, CaseCatalyst and Legend.  There is a minor delay to the output.  This system works PHONETICALLY; therefore, words that are not pre-input may translate as sounds, for example ‘BRIGHTON’ may appear on the laptop as "bright tonne".  Prep work makes all the difference, i.e. we use background papers given from the client in order to have terminology beforehand.

My laptop can also be projected onto any TV/plasma screen etc that the client or venue provides, and this means everyone in the room can have access to the spoken word

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