How to Deal with Heavy Accents in Transcription

Although transcription looks like a pretty easy task, it is sometimes more difficult than it seems.

A number of issues might arise along the process, some of which you may have already experienced.

A heavy accent is one thing that might make the process more difficult, especially one you are unfamiliar with and are not used to hearing.

So how to deal with heavy accents in transcription?

1. Familiarize yourself with the accent.

Is it Russian? Australian? French? (You can ask your client.)

Then go to an accent archive.

The archive is extremely simple.

You can browse by speakers or regions.

Look for the accent, listen to the speech samples, and familiarize yourself with the way the words are enunciated.

Dialects Archive is another website you can use to listen to different accents.

2. Listen and relisten.

Consider listening to a brief section of the file several times at a regular speed.

It becomes much easier to understand the speaker if you have heard them a few times and are familiar with their accent and how they pronounce the words.

3. Slow down the audio.

You can better hear the words by slowing down the audio.

If you’re using Express Scribe (a transcription software) to transcribe the audio, you have the option to adjust the speed of the dictation.

It could take you a little longer to finish a file by slowing it down.

If that’s the case, you can always charge your client more if the speakers are heavily accented.

Learning how to transcribe different accents is an excellent way to make more money in transcription.

It can be challenging to transcribe speakers with a heavy accent, but it can definitely make you a better transcriber.

4. Decline the assignment.

As a freelance transcriber, you can always accept or decline an assignment.

If you’re not confident you will be able to produce a good transcript for your client, it’s better to let them know the issue beforehand.

When you receive a transcription request, listen to the audio immediately so that you can assess beforehand if you can transcribe it or not, especially if you’re given a tight deadline.

A client might send you a note similar to the one we received from one of our regular clients.

“This one will be tough, as the guest speaker has a thick Chinese accent. Don’t spend too much time on it, as I think we can polish it pretty well. I have provided a short word list below.”

The clients are always aware that a file can be difficult if speakers are with strong accents.

So be open to telling them that due to the difficulties, finishing the file will take longer than expected and will have some indiscernible parts.

The clients will normally offer you some wiggle room and sometimes provide a word list to help with the transcription.

It’s always good practice to inform your client beforehand that you are having a hard time with the accent so that they will understand if you request to extend the deadline and if you’ve marked a lot of indiscernible words in your transcript.

5. Get help.

It’s always nice to network with other freelance transcribers.

You can always do this by joining several Facebook groups dedicated to transcribers.

If you belong to one, you can always seek assistance.

There are many transcribers who are willing to help out.


We can’t emphasize enough that maintaining communication with your client is very important.

Most of the time, clients are understanding.

You develop a relationship with your clientele as you continue to work with them.

So always be open when challenges arise, and always give it your best when things get tough.


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