Transcribing For Language Learning

What Is Transcribing?  A Little History

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In yesteryear, businessman would dictate (say aloud) what should be in business letters, and secretaries would transcribe it.  Later, they’d type up the letters on their typewriters.  “Taking dictation” is another way of saying “transcribing.”

A contemporary of Maria Montessori, named Charlotte Mason, wrote of having children transcribe their teacher’s reading of a favourite poem in order to practice spelling, handwriting, and punctuation.  Transcribing is educational!  We’ve modernized and tweaked the idea to use it for learning a foreign language.  As far as we know, this way of transcribing is exclusive to SK language.

Why You Should Transcribe For Language Learning

You should get an audio clip by a native speaker, and transcribe it.

Transcribing requires you to listen carefully with your full attention.  The challenge of transcribing will motivate you to willingly listen to the same audio repeatedly, and you’ll retain that vocabulary and phrasing much better than if you had only listened to it once.  Writing the words will also help you internalize them.  Transcribing helps you improve your metacognition; you’ll be more aware of what you understand, and what you don’t understand. The first times you transcribe you’ll do worse that you expected.  Getting the gist of what the person said is not enough to make a good transcription.  After several attempts of transcribe, you’ll get better at it.  You’ll even start to be able to write things that were unclear to you the first time you listened to the audio.  It’s satisfying to see how much of the audio you wrote correctly, and see progress in your listening skills.


Here’s How To Take Dictation For Language Learning

Get an audio clip that you undertand, that is about 30 seconds long, or less.  Ideally, the audio clip will have accurate subtitles.

Listen to the audio, and write it down.  Pause and repeat the audio as much as you need to.  When you are done, you can check your work against the subtitles.

If you use the app HelloTalk, you can hook up with natives who will send you audios for you to type. They’ll correct them for you, if you want them to. You can return the favor by sending them audios in English and correcting their writing.

Here is a transcription my language partner made of an audio I sent him.


As you can see, that audio was difficult for him to transcribe!


Enjoy Your language Learning!





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