We asked ... Birgit Nofftz, German Association of Speech-to-Text Interpreters

"Speech-to-text interpreters assist in equal access communication"

There is an alternative for hearing impaired or deaf persons, who are not able to or don’t want to communicate with the help of sign language: so-called speech-to-text interpreters reproduce spoken words into a text format onto paper, computer monitors or screens. REHACARE.com inquired with the German Association of Speech-to-Text Interpreters (German: Bundesverband der Schriftdolmetscher Deutschlands e.V.) and gained some insight into this profession.


Photo: Birgit Nofftz using a mask for speech recognition; Copyright: private

Birgit Nofftz is the deputy chairperson of the German Association of Speech-to-Text Interpreters and uses a mask for speech recognition; © private

Mrs. Nofftz, how is a sign language interpreter different from a speech-to-text interpreter and what advantages does speech-to-text interpreting offer in a direct comparison?

Birgit Nofftz: Speech-to-text interpreters and sign language interpreters personally assist persons with hearing impairments. Simply put, sign language interpreters work for people who use sign language. Here they are the central resource. Speech-to-text interpreters work for people, who use oral language as a guide and/or have command of the written language. The largest percentage of hearing impaired persons does not know sign language. Those who become hearing impaired or deaf during the course of their lives typically don’t learn sign language, since sign language has its own grammar and culture. These people can benefit from a speech-to-text interpreter.

Speech-to-text interpreters convert spoken words into text. The reference to the oral language remains, meaning you can compare spoken words with written words, thereby filling in gaps in comprehension among other things, and learning new words. Persons with normal hearing also benefit when text appears on a screen during events and they are able to review information or read along. Based on prior agreement and in accordance with data protection regulations, it is possible to obtain a transcript of the translated text for a fee.

There is generally no competition between sign language interpreters and speech-to-text interpreters. It is up to the person with hearing impairment to decide what communication aids or resources are best suited for him or her. This is always an individual decision.

In what situations do people preferably use speech-to-text interpreters?

Nofftz: Speech-to-text interpreters are used in a variety of situations. Basically, they are always utilized when it is important to be able to communicate and understand on an equal footing. This pertains to doctor’s visits as well as court trials and meetings at work. Speech-to-text interpreters are also regularly being used during training and continuing education courses, instruction, academic studies and at schools. Assignments for cultural and private events are also increasing at this point.
Photo: Speech-to-text interpreters; Copyright: private

Whether for professional or private reasons - speech-to-text interpreters can help in a lot of situations; © private

How is speech-to-text interpreter training structured?

Nofftz: The training to become a speech-to-text interpreter consists of theoretical and practical instruction as well as internships. Content and duration of training depends on the provider. Overall, along with learning the interpreting method (speech-to-text interpreting with voice recognition, conventional method or computer-aided transcription), the training curriculum also includes the subjects of technology, hearing impairment, communication, ethics, law and translation.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Nofftz: Inclusion to me means that human diversity is normal. It means that I can decide for myself what I do and what I want to participate in and to know things will be accessible to me; to know that everyone is trying to remove obstacles – regardless of whether they are structural or communication barriers. It also means that other people consider my skills and potential and are treating me accordingly.
More about the German Association of Speech-to-Text Interpreters (only in German) at: www.bsd-ev.org
Photo: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

Nadine Lormis
(translated by Elena O'Meara)