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Nov 2, 2011

Enter the Dragon

For a number of years now, various colleagues of mine have sung the praises of Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking, making productivity claims that I occasionally suspected had their basis in illegal substance abuse. The work results I saw on one project a few years ago convinced me that the fellow had in fact been stoned.

I used the software briefly seven years ago during a rather unpleasant bout of RSI while I was traveling abroad and some of the keys on my laptop's keyboard began to fail, but Windows XP Service Pack 2 soon rendered the application unusable, and my memories of it weren't so great that I was inspired to have another look any time soon.

And so it remained until I had occasion to visit another colleague and see a "mixed mode" way of working with The Beast on complex legal texts. That got my attention. Particularly the quality of the results and an output well beyond my usual capacity. So I had another look.

First of all, one must be aware that DNS is dangerous. Even with good training and a high-quality microphone, it produces a number of errors, some bizarre, some very subtle, which may require a significant change in one's review workflow. For someone like me who is a miserable proofreader, this can be quite a challenge. Reading texts at top speed aloud doing a Donald Duck imitation seems to help. But for God's sake, don't rely on a casual silent read and a spellchecker.

I discovered that overall, my working speed, even with the considerable increase in review effort, improved significantly. It is faster to read terminology from my TEnT hit list than it is to insert it with a keyboard shortcut, and I think that looking at the source text on the screen more and thinking about it as I dictate at a slow, relaxed pace gives me a better, more natural text faster. The improvement in output isn't a matter of "typing speed" so much but rather that I spend more time reading the text. I am a hunt and peck typist, albeit a rather fast one, and I can keep pace with the fastest touch typists I have seen when I am working on a translation. The real bottleneck has never been typing time but rather thinking time, and I do not have the impression that a touch typist does any more thinking or does it faster.

When I shared my findings with a Dutch friend, an agency owner with nearly 30 years of experience as a translator, he told me about how the colleagues he knew long ago had mocked him for using the first generation of word processors, because they could dictate so much faster. However, back then a great deal of time was lost sending tapes to a typist and revising, and he could often deliver faster, though his personal time investment was perhaps greater. Now, he said, it seems that technology and tradition can be combined to produce the best result.

And now, just for laughs, the raw results of dictating the text above with a medium-quality microphone and an ignorance of various useful commands for quotation marks, etc.:

For a number of years now, various colleagues have sung the praises of nuances Dragon naturally speaking, making productivity claims I occasionally suspected had their basis in your legal substance abuse. The work results I saw on one project a few years ago convinced me at hello had in fact been stoned.
I used the software briefly seven years ago during a rather unpleasant out of RSI while I was traveling abroad and some of the keys on my laptop's keyboard began to fail, but windows XP service pack two soon rendered the application unusable, and my memories of it weren't so great that I was inspired to have another look anytime soon.
And so it remained until I had occasion to visit another call to and see a mixed mode way of working with the beast on complex legal texts. That got my attention. Particularly the quality of the results and an output well beyond my usual capacity. So I had another look.
First of all, one must be aware that DNS is dangerous. Even with good training and a high-quality microphone, it produces a number of errors, some bizarre, some very subtle, which may require a significant change in one's review work. For someone like me who is a miserable proofreader, this can be quite a challenge. Reading texts at top speed allowed doing a Donald Duck imitation seems to help. But for gods sake, don't rely on a casual site and read and spell check.
I discovered that overall, my working speed, even with the considerable increase in review effort, improved significantly. It is faster to read terminology from my tent yet list than it is to insert it with a keyboard shortcut, and I think that looking at the source text on the screen more and thinking about it as I dictate at a slow, relaxed pace gives me a better, more natural text faster. The improvement in output isn't a matter of typing speed so much but Robert that I spend more time reading the text. I am a hunt and peck typist, albeit a rather fast one, and I can keep pace with the fastest touch typist I have seen when I am working on a translation. The real bottleneck has never been typing time but rather thinking time, and I do not have the impression that a touch typist does anymore thinking or does it faster.
When I shared my findings with a Dutch friend, an agency owner with nearly 30 years of experience as a translator, he told me about how the colleagues he knew long ago had mocked him for using the first generation wordprocessed, because they could dictate so much faster. However, back then a great deal of time was lost sending tapes to a typist and revising, and he could often deliver faster, though his personal time investment was perhaps greater. Now, he said, it seems that technology and tradition can be combined to produce the best result.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent blog post Kevin... possibly my favourite this year..!

    How long did it take you to dictate the passage again comapred to typing it (without thinking time for the content)?

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  2. Paul, how fast do you read that text at a normal pace? That's what I did. The green text is totally raw and unedited.

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  3. Thanks, Kevin, for that brilliant post! Dagy has used DNS on and off for several years now, and I (Judy) have yet to try it. I've been reluctant, but perhaps it's time. :) Ah, and amazing that you are a hunt and peck typist and are so quick nonetheless. Impressive.

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  4. Judy, it's not so much that I'm quick, but reasonably accurate with hunt-and-peck. So my 40 to 50 wpm generally have few errors. But the idea that typing speed per se affects translation speed is a misconception propagated by those who are stuck in a secretarial mentality. The bottleneck really is the time to think, and I find that the working style I am learning with DNS gives me more of that. But like I mentioned, it makes review just a bit tougher.

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  5. You should also note the different behaviour in CAT-tools. IMHO it works much better in memoQ than in Trados 2009, Java applications such as OmegaT or Swordfish or even across. DNS is not officialy "supported" by Kilgray, but DNS users have their "weight" when commenting glitches (e g. when introducing the new editor in v4.0).

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  6. A friend told me recently that this way of translation (dictating into voice-recognition software) works best for him because he has experience in simultaneous interpretation.

    On an unrelated topic, I'm sure the people of Wales will be happy to be associated with voice-recognition technology! ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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