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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Hardest Accents to Transcribe ...


Having been a medical transcriptionist for 25 years, before my current position - which is transcribing independent-marketing-firm interviews for pharmaceutical companies before product launch, with expert physicians, pharmacists, and payers like private commercial insurance, public insurance like Medicare, and international healthcare authority agencies like the NHS and NICE in Great Britain, the HAS/ANSM in France, and the BfArM and GBA in Germany, and many others in Spain, Italy, etc. -  I'm pretty good with accents.

In fact, my husband uses me as his personal close-captioner, when he can't understand what accented people are saying onscreen, including British people or even people from the American South lol.

Mark:  "What did he say?"


Me:  "He said 'Get on with it, ya tosser.'


Mark:  "What the hell does THAT mean?"


Me:  "He's essentially telling him to do what he's gotta do and then F off because he doesn't like him, also calling him a 'tosser."


Mark:  "What's a tosser?  Is that like a wanker?" 


Me:  "Yes - and no - it depends lol.   A 'tosser' CAN be used as just the more socially acceptable term than 'wanker' to pass censorship, like the difference between "crap" and "shit" on American TV - but there's also subtle differences in usage,  different nuances.  A 'tosser' is similar to a 'wanker,' but the terms aren't necessarily interchangeable -  like a 'wanker' is more of an A-hole, and a 'tosser' is more like a general loser, I think?"


 "Both terms both originally referred to a person reduced to sexual self-satisfaction, shall we say? lol."   

"But a tosser is more of like a weird loser, like they're so weird and socially inept that they can't get a girlfriend or wife and are thus reduced to sexual self-satisfaction." 

"A wanker is more the sort of person who actually prefers self-gratification, a selfish A-hole -  a person that thinks he's awesome, but in reality, accomplishes little or nothing for anyone but himself, and thus no one likes him - ya know, like Trump.  In fact, they should put Trump's picture next to the definition of "wanker" in the British slang dictionary lol"


"At least I think I've got that right, but not being British myself, I'm not sure lol, we'd have to ask someone British. Regardless, ya gotta admit, the British are much better at both swearing and finding the perfect, precise, succinct term for both describing and insulting people, especially men. They have greater one-word insults for men than we do in America.  We have a plethora of words to insult women, but virtually one or two for men." 

I also have developed a weird, useless gift for being able to tell you whose actor's voice is on commercials, voiceovers, and cartoons lol.

However, some accents still give me trouble.  For instance, I just completed the transcription for an interview, in which a British partner for the marketing firm that I contract with was interviewing a Germany payer with BfArm/the GBA.   

Now, I'm good with British accents, despite most Americans believing there are only two accents, based on social class alone rather than region lol.

(No, btw, fellow Americans - there are not just two British accents, and they're not based on social class alone - they have regional accents just like we Americans do :)

HOWEVER, just one throws me - and it's a Birmingham or "Brummie" accent - worst-case scenario being Ozzy Osbourne, though most "Brummies" are not THAT incoherent - Ozzy Osbourne is just especially - special :)   

Regardless, I often have to slow the recording down, and I believe this guy was from Birmingham and did so to get most of it, but I couldn't get all of it. 

In fact, I had a harder time understanding him than I did the German guy he was interviewing! lol

Thus, I started thinking about how I've transcribed virtually every accent you can imagine, in 25 years - but which accents do I still struggle with? 

Despite many having problems with Indian or Middle Eastern or most Asian accents, I don't, at least anymore, I guess because so many doctors are from these regions. 

Thus, here is my list of the top 5 accents that I still struggle with, 25 years later, some of which may otherwise surprise you.

1)  Rural American South - this may surprise you, because even though my family is from the South, half of them being from Eastern Kentucky, and I live in the south now - and the fact I can interpret most of them to my husband from Detroit (and vice versa) -  sometimes people from the rural deep south can still throw me lol.

2)  Birmingham British, as mentioned above.  However, I don't feel too badly, because as I understand it, all of the actors on Peaky Blinders admit not being able to nail a Brummie accent exactly -  it's a very unique, difficult British accent.

3)  People from certain regions in France and/or French people when they get excited and talk fast lol. 

4)  Rural Irish.

5)  Chinese  - but not Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, or other Asian accents.  

Not sure why, but I can get just about every other accent but those, including Russian or Namibian - but I'll keep working on those 5 ;)

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