What do they do and how do they work?

A Speech to Text Reporter (STTR) listens to what is being said and inputs it word for word into an electronic shorthand keyboard called a Stenography or a Palantype, which is linked to a laptop.

Unlike a QWERTY keyboard, not every letter is pressed, but several keys will be pressed at once which represent whole words, phrases or short forms.

Specifically designed software will then convert these phonetic chords back into English which can then be displayed for someone to read.   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.  So Speech to Text Reporters really benefit from having access to background papers before the booking so that they can enter the terminology beforehand.

The text is displayed on either the screen of a laptop for a sole user, or projected onto a large screen or a series of plasma screens for a larger number of users.

A Speech to Text Reporter produces a verbatim account of what is said at speeds in excess of 200 words per minute.  Extra information such as (laughter) or (applause) is shared in brackets.  This informs the user of the service of the mood and the environment aspects such as shouting and banging as well.

Who would use this service?

This service would most likely to used by deaf people who prefer using English to access information.  Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) may choose to use an STTR in particular settings.

We would always recommend you ask the deaf person what service they would prefer, as this could change depending on the setting.

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.

A Bizarre Introduction

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.

The Training

After a few years of working in the City at various law firms, I still wanted to do something else.  So I rang the Baker Street College; who put me in touch with Kensington College of Business who were then running the course.  Then I was 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 freelance Speech-to-Text Reporter); is that we are directly working with the people who benefit from the work.  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.