Transcription is the process of getting spoken or signed language onto paper. Transcription works within one language, taking spoken words or signs and transcribing them into written script. If you create subtitles in the same language as a video, you’re a transcriptionist! 

Transcription is important because it creates access to videos, provides a reference for future translators, and makes videos easier to find by search engines.

Let’s break down the word transcribe and compare it with a more well-known term: translate.

Trans: through, across, beyond

  • -late:  to carry (from Latin -latus)
  • -scribe: to write  (from Latin -scribo)

Translators carry words across language barriers: from one language to another. Transcribers change the nature of the word: from speech to a written record.

A transcript of a video or audio recording is an essential accessibility asset for deaf and hard of hearing people. A transcript can also be an asset for people who prefer text because of audio processing issues. 

Without a transcript, search engines have trouble finding the right videos because they rely mostly on searching text. Transcripts are more easy to use for search engines compared to audio and video. It’s a little harder to search within audio or video for a specific sound. Adding a transcript to a video makes it easier to search for.

Some people use machine-generated transcription, but others prefer to have humans do the transcribing. While auto-captioning has grown in popularity, humans are still better at creating transcripts that are loyal to the original content.

If you are transcribing subtitles and are not sure where to start, here are some simple guidelines to creating quality subtitles that audiences will love.

For people who don’t rely on transcripts, it’s easy to miss them. But next time you are watching a video or checking out a  popular podcast episode, you can check to see if they included a transcript. You can even scan them for a sneak-peek at the content before you hit play!

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