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 benefits 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 environmental aspects, such as shouting and banging as well.
Who would use this service?
This service would most likely be 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.
There is a shortage of STTRs in the UK, therefore, we provide these services remotely.
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 real-time Stenographer/Subtitler, where she learnt many skills as a real-time 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” meetings 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.
After a few years of working in the City at various law firms, I still wanted to do something else. So I rang Baker Street College, which put me in touch with Kensington College of Business which was then running the course. Then I worked 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; 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 make my career so enjoyable.