1. You have a favourite type of on-ho
At Ai-Media, we caption many workplace meetings for clients as part of our Ai-Live service. To receive the audio to caption these meetings, we simply dial in as another participant on the teleconference call. As a captioner, we’re often the keenest person to join the teleconference call early to ensure we’re all ready to caption when the meeting begins. This means that we get to listen to a good 10 - 15 minutes of on-hold music before the meeting begins. Before I was a captioner, I had no true appreciation of the wide range of on-hold music there is out there in the world! From jazz-funk, to classical masterpieces, to what can only be described as 1980s dolphin aquarium music. I think the last category will always be my favourite.
2. You’ve mastered how not to laugh at jokes
As a respeaker, I use voice-recognition software to produce live captions. I listen to what is being said and repeat it into the voice-recognition software, while simultaneously adding punctuation and verbal commands for formatting (i.e. new paragraph, new line etc.). In order to produce the highest level of accuracy, it is important that I speak in a clear, monotone voice so the recognition software has the best chance of correctly changing my speech into text. What does this mean when I’m live captioning? It means that I have to maintain that robot-like clarity even when someone tells the best of jokes during a captioning session! This might be a comedian on broadcast television, or someone cracking a brilliant joke during a university lecture or work meeting. While everyone else is laughing, I’ve learned to not even crack a smile so as not to affect the sound of my voice for the voice recognition software. You can bet I’m laughing along with everyone on the inside though!
3. You’re an expert with accents
One of my favourite aspects of captioning is having the chance to listen to people from all over the world talk about every imaginable topic. It does mean you come across a lot of different accents too, of course. As a respeaker, you very quickly learn to understand different accents, but there is an extra skill in remembering to respeak into the voice recognition software using your own standard pronunciation of words. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of copying how the actual speaker pronounced a particular word.
It’s the old TOE-MAH-TOE versus TOE-MAY-TOE scenario. I confess there are times when even our accent expertise fails us. I fondly recall the situation of captioning for a New Zealand client and the first sentence the speaker said sounded like, “Can someone pass me that pin?” As it was the first sentence they had spoken, we were not sure if they really wanted a pin, or if they had a Kiwi accent and were asking for a pen! We went with our best guess and captioned it as pin, instantly heard the amusement on the other end of the phone call, and knew to quickly edit it to pen!
4. You can’t even attempt to work when you have a cold
There’s nothing quite like turning up to work with the remnants of a cold, feeling like you’re finally all ready to have your life back to normal and start working again, only to find out that your voice is still too different to be recognised by the voice recognition software. Guess it’s back to bedrest for a few more days of homemade soup and TV watching…
5. You can cringe with the best of them
One of the hazards of live captioning is when the voice recognition software misrecognises your voice and inserts the wrong word in the captions. We maintain a standard of 98% accuracy or higher at Ai-Media, but even this high standard means that two words in 100 will possibly be misrecognised. Captioners become accustomed to the limitations of the software, but where the cringe factor comes in is when the misrecognised word makes for a hilarious or mildly rude change of meaning or context. A classic example comes from the similarity of how the software ‘hears’ or recognises the words pants and pens. I can hardly describe to you the laughter that ensued in a school class when the teacher was captioned as saying, “Please put your pants down now.” instead of “Please put your pens down now.” The misrecognition was corrected immediately, but alas, not before the students saw it, and such are the perils of live captioning. At least the instant laughter in the classroom was a lovely demonstration of how attentive the students were with reading the captions!
6. You have a sudden interest in the outcome of sports games
There’s nothing quite like captioning Wimbledon at 3:00AM to really get you supporting one of the tennis superstars in the hope that it doesn’t go to five sets. If it does, that could mean you’re suddenly captioning even longer into the early hours of the morning. I don’t mind who wins, but you can bet I’m supporting the player who finishes the match to schedule!
7. You can’t help thinking in punctuation sometimes
Since live respeaking involves verbally inserting punctuation into each sentence while captioning, it sometimes becomes a habit that is hard to switch off even when hanging out and chatting with your friends. My friend might say, “Hi there, how was your weekend?” and I’ll be thinking: hi there comma how was your weekend question mark. My goal is to always make sure that my response comes out in natural English, rather than a robotic, “Mine was lovely comma how was your weekend question mark.”
Written by Jennifer Wardle, Product Manager