Transcriber – Secret Tool for Language Learning

I don’t know why nobody ever told me about Transcriber, but since it’s so useful for language learning, I thought I’d share it.

Transcriber can help you with your:

  • reading
  • listening comprehension
  • vocabulary
  • overall fluency

How does it do all of these things? Simply by linking together audio and text, making playback and navigation a cinch.

Here’s a demonstration of simple playback of a ChinesePod lesson. You’ll see how the text has been brought to life, by being aligned with the audio:

You can navigate to any section of the text and instantly hear the audio for that section.

The magic comes when working with materials that you can’t fully understand. You can load an audio, paste in the transcript and start listening, aligning the text as you go. When you encounter a sentence that you don’t fully understand, you can isolate just the word or phrase that gives you trouble and focus your listening on that.

Right now I’m using Transcriber to blast through some ChinesePod dialogues. ChinesePod provides exact transcripts with English translations underneath each paragraph. In Transcriber, I open the dialogue audio, paste in the transcript and process the new material in three passes:

  1. Listen through, aligning each English sentence to the audio.
  2. Take another, more careful pass, this time focusing on the Chinese text as I listen to the audio. When I hear new words that I don’t understand, I might segment the audio to listen carefully to those parts of the sentence a few times. Saying the phrases out loud, with the meaning in mind also helps. Then I might listen to the full sentence again, hopefully understanding it better.
  3. Taking a final pass, I again focus on the Chinese text, ignoring the English. Hopefully I’ll have an easier time understanding the sentences. I may pause a couple times to listen or practice saying some new words, but after that it’s time to move on.

Although Transcriber was not created with language learners in mind, there are many ways it can serve language learners. My little example just scratches the surface. What would a similar piece of software look like if it was designed with language learning in mind? Maybe you could instantly create flashcards with audio for a given sentence, etc.

Transcriber can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OSX or Linux from: here.

8 responses to “Transcriber – Secret Tool for Language Learning

  1. Pingback: Learn to Read with a Used Tablet PC « SlatteryPod

  2. Very interesting and useful porgram indeed… I was trying to google it – and there are almost no any reviews…

    I am using FlashMyBrain program which I use to create my flash cards which I play with later on my iPhone and I wonder if it is possible to find out some easy way to streamlime the process of creating flash cards from the program…

  3. Hi Mike, that’s a good idea about making flashcards from Transcriber. I might be able to implement program to do something like that.

    Maybe it could automatically create audio clips for each segment of the transcript. And maybe a spreadsheet of the text that goes with each audio.

    Do you think that would help streamline the process of creating flash cards?

  4. Hi slatterypod,
    it sounds really interesting. Does this program work also with songs and their lyrics ?

    • Hi Mel,
      It sounds like it should work with songs.. just give Transcriber any audio file and any text and you can align them together.
      It might be a nice way to closely review sections of the songs that are hard to understand.

  5. Hey,

    I was just wondering in which audio format your files were when you put them into Transcriber. Because as far as I can tell it only works with wav format, which confuses me since most memorecorders/audiorecorders out there record to wma.

    Got any suggestions as to how I can get around that?


    • I haven’t tried WMA, but on Windows I think you can use at least MP3, OGG and WAV. I’ve experienced problems with longer MP3s, where the timestamps start drifting. That’s why I use WAV almost exclusively, it just gives the best results — perfect timestamps. OGG would be my second choice, it’s almost as good.

      You might try some software like MediaCoder to convert your files into a format for use with Transcriber.

  6. Hi Jim, I have been searching for a learning tool to help students learning Vietnamese. When I came across your reader It was exactly what I and the students was looking for. I tell you what a wonderful work you did and I believe it will help tremendously. I would like to talk to you. Could you please shoot me an email for your contact info. Thanks and look forward.

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