Calculating Dictation Speed While Recording

I’ve begun recording dictation mp3 files for Gregg Notehand (you can listen to the first two files for Unit 2 at this link).  Notehand doesn’t concern itself with training for speed per se, yet I would like to know how to calculate my recording speed and supply that information if at all possible.  For instance, if I want to record my speech at, say, 40 wpm, how would I regulate my speaking speed as I record to know that I am, in fact, speaking/recording at 40 wpm?  I’m doing these recordings in Audacity, which I know is speed-adjustable after-the-fact to some extent (though I don’t think I can just type in a number and tell it exact wpm, though I’m not sure– I’m still getting to know the program).  I plan to make dictation recordings for the entire Notehand text, but before I get too far into it, I was just looking for some direction on how to go about it.  Notehand supplies the wordcount for all its Reading & Writing Practices in the key, so I don’t need to calculate that.  I just need to know how to calculate my own speaking speed so I can try to be consistent.  Thanks for any help!


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  1. What I did once was put little pencil marks into the text for every 15 seconds (that would be every ten words at 40 wpm), perhaps with a double mark for each minute, and then read while looking at a clock.

    If I remember correctly, the "standard word" is 1.4 syllables, so you could choose whether to simply count printed words or whether to convert to standard words and then put the marks after 15 seconds' worth of those.

  2. My life should be back to normal next month. (Both my volunteer positions involve lots of organizing in September, when most moms are recovering from the summer, then I spend October recovering.)

    I hope to return to the speech to text speech dictation program. The last version had a calibration problem, so I need to redo several files, and I now know how to automate the mp3 tags.

    If you send me the text files, one file per passage, the word count, and the desired speeds, I can add them to the project. There will be one file per passage per speed. 40wpm is the slowest. No file over 3 minutes.

    Name the files something GN-ccc-lll-ppp. the program will translate GN to Gregg Notehand , the seas chapter number the else to lesson number and the piece to paragraph number. Use three digits, so leading zeros, for each of the numbers . That way the files will all sorts nicely .

    Message or email me if you have any questions

  3. First, you have to mark the material in groups of 20 standard words. A standard word is 1.4 syllable, so every 28 syllables you will put a mark. Then you will time yourself so that every 30 seconds, you read those groups of 28 syllables. That would be 40 wpm. For faster speeds, increase the number of syllables. You will notice that 40 wpm is very slow: approximately one syllable per second (56 syllables/minute). But if you dictate by phrases, and add pauses of a couple seconds between phrases, you should be able to do it, and not sound robotic.

  4. Thanks for the tips everyone! Boy, it may be more complicated than I thought, trying to read at a consistent speed, then. I may just try to read without keeping track– I'll just read it out loud, slowly, the way I do with my kids.

    I had beginner's luck with recording with Audacity the first time– I got nice clear voice recordings for Unit 2. When I tried recording Unit 3 the next day, the sound was muffled and my voice sounded like it was coming from a tunnel. So now I have some technical issues to work through…

  5. Don't be too discouraged if your Notehand speeds are not up to the old standards for business dictation or court reporting. Both those fields have lots of boilerplate phrases that are amenable to phrasing or special abbreviations. The material a modern notetaker would write has far fewer boilerplate phrases.

    1. Thanks! True, I don't have to worry so much about speed when it comes to Notehand. I'm doing this for an added practice-dimension, apart from reading/copying outlines, and not so much for speed-building. And I'm realizing since I'm doing this for my kids first and foremost, that I have to slow things down even more for them.

      I resolved the technical microphone issues I was having earlier, and have completed the first 6 units from Notehand this weekend. They are recorded and uploaded at the same Evernote link above. Most of them are in the 30-40 wpm range– very slow and non-intimidating! I provided the wpm as a convenience only (hopefully my math is correct!), and not so much for speed-building (my speaking speeds are not consistent– I found dictating with a timer to be too tricky at this point, so I opted to speak more like I do when I do this with my kids). Come back and refresh the link often for new additions… I'll continue to add new units here as I get the time to make and upload them. My plan is to do all 70 units (not including the note-taking chapters).

      In the meantime, if anyone is interested in these dictation files for Notehand, and if you have Evernote (you can get a free account if you don't), you can simply save the note to your account and then play these audio files right out of Evernote. It's a very easy way to practice dictation on-the-go, anywhere! My son plays these files right off his Kindle using the Evernote app.)

      When this project is completely done, I may post these mp3 files on the Internet Archive so everyone can download them freely. If you are learning a different Gregg edition and still want to practice with these files in the meantime, you can play these mp3 files through the freeware program Audacity and adjust the speed there to fit your needs. If you want to try this already, I believe you'll need the PC edition of Evernote to be able to download the mp3 files out of Evernote. Right-click on an mp3 file within the note, and then select "Open with" (it will give you options like iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.) Select Audacity (install Audacity first, of course).

      Once in Audacity, you can adjust the playback speed at the top far right of the controls. If you need more dramatic speed change than this offers, click on Effect (on the top menu) and then Change Tempo. Here you can select a percentage of speed change without affecting the pitch of the voice.

      I hope others will find this useful, too.

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