I used my shorthand!

I’ve been reading shorthand for about two years now, after abortive attempts to learn about 25 years ago.  I’ve done a little writing, but nothing regular.  Mostly, I’ve been reading.

This weekend I used it for real!  During a certain training session, I was assigned to be an observer, to notice how the trainee interacted with someone.  The session I observed lasted about 20 minutes, but the trainee’s comments were fairly limited (5-8 comments in 20 minutes).  After that time, the next 20-minute period was for discussing the trainee’s interactions.

Two of us were observing: me (also a trainee), and the teacher.  During the session, we both took notes.  Early in session, I got frustrated with my writing speed and switched to shorthand.  It worked!  Although I couldn’t catch everything, I noticed that I spent less time writing than the teacher did, and during the following discussion, I had the comments down verbatim, whereas the teacher did not.  In this context exact words matter, so my notes were helpful.

Usually, shorthand can easily be replaced by recordings.  But not here: searching for the few comments in a 20-minute recording would have been cumbersome.  I could have typed the comments faster on my laptop, and I suppose that would have been better in a sense, but it would have been obvious and distracting, and would have detracted from the experience of everyone involved.

This is rather a special situation, of course.  I was taking down relatively few comments, delivered slowly and thoughtfully.  But still, since I’m not studying shorthand with any expectation that it will be practical, I was thrilled to find a use for it!

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  1. Out of curiosity I just tested my speed on some of Cricket's recordings.  I'd only worked with them once or twice.  I found that I could consistently do 50 wpm with new material, at least on the early selections.  (I didn't try any later ones; that will be interesting too.). And I could read it easily enough, although I didn't think it looked very good and I did find errors.

    I also tried writing one selection in longhand at 40wpm and couldn't—and boy, did my hand get tired fast!  I thought that I would have to stop rather than going on to shorthand, but at that speed my shorthand really was easier on my hands than longhand.  Of course, my brain was having to work a lot harder!

    I was surprised at how nice it was to reach a phrase like "you will be glad," which gave me time to catch up.  Of course, if this had been real dictation, the words "you will be glad" would probably have been delivered so quickly that I wouldn't have been able to do any catchup there, but still, it was nice.

    Anyway, I found that a few specific problems kept slowing me down (like having to think about how to write the oo hook and whether of and you are o or oo), so I can tell that if I worked on those particular things my speed would go up fairly quickly.

    50 wpm is nothing to brag about by standards of the day.  Still, it's encouraging to see that shorthand can be useful even at that speed, and it has encouraged me to spend more of my hobby time practicing for the last few days (rather than on some things that have even less payback!).

    1. I know just what you mean, Betht!  Everything you mentioned I've experienced, too, including those grateful little "catch up" moments with easy phrases!  50 wpm is a great start and still puts you above most of the world's population who write using longhand.  I think the average handwriting speed is around 30 wpm… and like you discovered, it's just not sustainable for very long before the hand gets too tired.  So long live shorthand!

      1. The project was going well until I tried to automate one more bit, and just as that was coming together I realized there was a calibration problem. Some of the files were way too fast. Then, you know what happens when a project gets too many broken parts, even if each part is easy to fix, and then sits so long that the tools have changed and you have to relearn some of the skills.

  2. The only fiddly bit was putting on the MP3 tags. Otherwise, put a bunch of text files with the proper file names in the directory, tell it what speeds you want, hit a button, and and let it run. Then I realized I could automate the MP3 tags too, but it would take an hour to learn how.

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