Pen Writers Still Used in German Parliament

My spouse has been jealous that I’m learning shorthand, and has been interested for some months in learning a shorthand system appropriate for German. Germany does everything officially, so there is an official German pen steno system, the Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift, with three difficulty levels, that is still in active use today. It is required learning for those taking a secretary apprenticeship and is still used in the German Parliament. Below is a short video (in German, with some dodgy auto translated captions in English available) following around one of the thirty (!) pen stenographers employed in the Deutsche Bundestag.

The stenographers work in 5 minute shifts, writing up to 350 syllables per minute (you can’t really count WPM in German; the words get ridiculously long). Then there’s a complicated process of dictating the material back to a typist, having it proofread by a backup stenographer (who works a thirty minute shift), and labeling the electronic record with all kinds metadata before it is published in a giant print book.

Now I’m in the position of being jealous that the shorthand my spouse wants to learn is still in active use! I’m very curious why the German Parliament hasn’t switched to machine steno (one of the benefits of which I think is stamina; I have a friend who’s a machine steno court reporter, and she does entire trials by herself, albeit usually on the municipal level). I’m also curious how steno is accomplished in the US House of Representatives and Senate, such as how many they employ and how long their shifts are.

Vivien Spitz shares a little about her experience as a Gregg writer in the House in the interview that Aaron Carlow uploaded, and here’s a page on the overall history of steno in the House and Senate. I’m still looking for more current information.

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  1. Thanks for this. 350 syllables a minute is 250 wpm in English (350/1.4), so that sounds right.

    The levels of difficulty in Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift are achieved by the use of reporting shortcuts and additional abbreviations, similar to how Gregg Shorthand is able to achieve high speeds in court and congressional reporting. Also, those reporters have an amazing ability to retain what was said (the "carriage ability"), and that comes with lots of practice.

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