Transcribing audio for language-learning

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zjones
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Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby zjones » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:32 pm

I'm interested in a discussion about transcribing audio for language-learning.

I'm specifically talking about using a section of audio for which you have not seen the transcript, and transcribing it (either by hand or computer) and checking it against the true transcript. This could be audio created for dictation, or something as simple as a YouTube video, an audio message from an LE partner, or a new Assimil lesson.

I imagine that transcribing audio would be beneficial for listening comprehension. There was a short discussion about transcription on the forum previously, but it was specifically talking about French. I'd like to hear from people who have actually used dictation/transcribing for their own language-learning, and whether or not it was efficient or useful. Sharing methods and advice would be welcome too!

I think I did one dictation exercise for French many months ago, a poem by a French poet. Although the exercise was challenging (and I made a lot of mistakes), I enjoyed the process of copying down French by hand. Perhaps if I had kept doing it, my listening comprehension and vocabulary might be better than they are today.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby StringerBell » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:06 pm

I've done this both for Polish and Italian.

Here's how I did transcription with Polish: I used a ~5 minute podcast that I was familiar with but hadn't listened to/read in a while and a pencil.

1) I listened to the podcast, stopping every few seconds to write down what I thought I'd heard.
2) Once I got to the end, I listened to the audio again as I read through my notes to see if there was anything I wanted to correct. There almost always was something.
3) I compared my notes with the actual text. I erased any mistakes and wrote the corrections in a bright color that would stand out.
4) I read through the corrected transcription as I listened to the audio.
5) I repeated the process a second time.

In general, the first time I'd do the transcription, I'd average A LOT of mistakes, often something like 50-80 for 3-4 pages of writing. This includes little things like a missing letter or accent mark. The second time around, I'd generally be down to about 3-5 mistakes, which were generally minor ones.

I did this with about 15-20 different audio/texts. What I noticed was that this drastically improved my ability to spell and forced me to pay really close attention to a lot of details that were easy to skim over when I was just listening/reading.

With Italian, I started out using the same strategy, thinking that it would be much easier since my listening comprehension was significantly higher in Italian. I was really shocked to see that I was making a comparable number of mistakes. The problem wasn't with not understanding words, but just not hearing certain words at all.

This made me realize that part of my problem with speaking (not knowing which articles to use, for example) probably came from the fact that when I listened to Italian I just couldn't hear those articles, it's like they just didn't exist. After realizing this, I understood that I needed to switch to doing more reading (where I'd be able to see those words) as opposed to continuing listening, which was 100% of what I'd been doing up until that point.

Now that I've been doing a lot of reading in Italian, I know where a lot of those articles are supposed to be, even if I still don't really hear them. However, rather than repeating the same kind of dictation practice, I would rather read through the text first, then do the dictation. Mainly to reduce the unpleasantness of the activity because ultimately I find it stressful.

EDIT: I wanted to add a link to the article I read that gave me the idea to start doing transcription. I don't do it exactly the way she does, but I do find it to be very useful. https://www.fluentin3months.com/transcr ... technique/
Last edited by StringerBell on Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby rdearman » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:11 pm

I have done this a couple of times, although it is very difficult and therefore I gave up before I saw any real benefit. The things I have done and the software I used were like this.

Things I have done:
  • I cut a 5 minutes segment from a French TV show and attempted to transcribe it.
  • I attempted to transcribe a French cartoon (Valérian and Laureline).
  • I transcribed a small portion of an audio book in Italian.

Software I used was mainly OTranscribe which is transcription software which runs in your web-browser and therefore supports any audio/video file which your browser supports. I often consider going back and doing this again just to assist with my comprehension, but, it is hard.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:15 pm

An excellent choice of topic for discussion!

I have been using dictation/transcription (with the assistance of audio recordings) as a self-instruction technique for several years in the anticipation of increasing my listening skills. None of the recordings that I used were designed specifically for dictation purposes. Rather, they were drawn either from (a) scripted dialogues at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels, or (b) from recorded newscasts, films, videos, and speeches for which transcripts were available. Did this practice truly help me improve my auditory skills? Uh, er, I think so, but I cannot really say. That is, I will admit to the possibility that this type of practice did nothing more than confirm my present abilities and that it had no true influence on my progress.

From the academic perspective, dictation, as a technique used in language learning, has been around from at least the time of the Ancient Greeks. Nevertheless, it has apparently fallen out of favour amongst professionals linguists and methodologists, many believing that it is not only useless in detecting students’ errors, but that it may even be detrimental to the learning process. Still, some researchers believe that dictation led by a teacher in a classroom setting and dictation through the use of audio recordings may have different effects on language learning and that the latter might be beneficial after all. There are dozens of research papers available on the internet which offer opposing points of view. Here is but one of many:

Dictation as a language learning tool – Semin Kazazoglu – Abstract, 2012
https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042813001961/1-s2.0-S1877042813001961-main.pdf?_tid=17a86cbb-b49b-4b5f-8fa0-ed916655efac&acdnat=1543438565_6c83c061c1245460773dc485e69dfe05

EDITED:
Typos.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby Henkkles » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:26 pm

I honestly think that if you're doing only one thing to learn a language, it should be transcription. It is immensely powerful. I have been recommending it for years as a learning tool.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby eido » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:44 pm

I’m starting to do a little bit of it.
I’m using a series I’ve already seen and trying to find episodes that don’t have transcripts to test myself, so I can’t look before I finish. Then I have my LE partner check it.

I’ve been quite happy with the results, as I wasn’t able to understand the series 100% before but with the shorts I’m transcribing, I’m getting about 95%.

I think it’s useful.

Keep in mind I listen as many times as necessary to complete the transcript, and use alternate dubs if available, but only as a last resort. I try to get it all on my own first.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby zenmonkey » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:03 pm

zjones wrote:I'd like to hear from people who have actually used dictation/transcribing for their own language-learning, and whether or not it was efficient or useful. Sharing methods and advice would be welcome too!


I've used for German - initially very exercises given to me by a teacher and later material I found that had audio and text, so that I could easily check the results. I found Assimil a good start and later moved to Slow German news. Every once in a while, I try to do a DW Top Thema transcription exercise but these are slow and frustrating because the audio is fast. But the DW player has a back 10 sec button which is very useful.

Transcription for me is old school - audio on computer or phone and transcription on paper. So there is a lot of clicking to get back to my mark.

I should use Audacity or the software that rdearman suggests but I honestly don't use transcription enough.

Is it useful? I really think so, slowing down to transcribe forces better understanding.

I probably could do some transcription work when I watch movies or shows in German, it might be a plus. There are enough pauses then.


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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby zKing » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:28 pm

The biggest issue with my primary TL (Cantonese), for a learner, is the lack of audio content with matching text. I won't go into the details, but Cantonese speakers don't write like they speak so this kind of dual format content is extremely rare beyond a few beginner text books.

Because of the above I've attempted some transcription with audio only, purely in an attempt to understand it. The problem is, for pretty much any language, connected speech mangles and omits words such that the written text "What do you want to do about it?" turns into "Whadya wanna do boudit?" in the audio. Ironically, as a language learner, I feel like those little words and word endings that get dropped and mangled are often precisely the ones that I want to try to repeatedly 'hear' and get good at. Native speakers can 'fill in the blanks' because they know what should have been there... learners don't have the tools in their brain to do it.

That's a really long winded way of saying: Transcription is probably really great... IF you have accurate text to go with the audio or can get a native to correct your mistakes. I can say from experience that raw-dogging-it on audio with no text/corrections is VERY slow, frustrating and likely to leave you with a lot of mistakes in your results and I wouldn't recommend it (at least at the beginner to intermediate levels I've experienced.)
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby iguanamon » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:04 pm

I credit transcription and working with a tutor with a series for helping me reach a higher level in Portuguese. I have used transcription successfully in all of my languages. I don't use software but I write it out with a pen and paper in my own shorthand. I try to have an exact transcript so I can use it as a check against my comprehension. The problem is finding an exact transcription of an audio, but if you seek you shall find, though it does take effort generally. If I can do this for Ladino, Haitian Creole and to some extent, even for Lesser Antilles French Creole, learners of more popular and bigger languages should have a much easier time with their languages.

I find it helps to train listening and make listening more "automatic". Real life doesn't come with subtitles. I haven't done this for Catalan yet, but I will when I am ready for it.
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Re: Transcribing audio for language-learning

Postby rdearman » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:12 pm

I did want to point out that transcription using software like Otranscript can be extra painful because you may need to use a foreign keyboard. This was probably the mainreason I found it so hard and gave up. In hindsight paper would probably be the better option.

Henkkles wrote:I honestly think that if you're doing only one thing to learn a language, it should be transcription. It is immensely powerful. I have been recommending it for years as a learning tool.


Care to elaborate? How, how much, how often?
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