This is a reflection piece I wrote for my court reporting school last year on February 8, 2012. The same piece is also located on my school’s blog: http://verbatimstudies.com/wp/?p=58
This winter holiday, I traveled to Hong Kong to visit my relatives. I also took this opportunity to visit Jade King, a realtime court reporter who works at the Hong Kong High Court and International Arbitration Centre.
Jade has worked in captioning, CART, and the courts in Australia, and recently moved to Hong Kong to further her job aspirations. I first learned about Jade when a fellow CCVS classmate posted the link to her blog on the forums about six months ago. After reading the entry entitled “Stenowhat?” where she explains stenography to her fellow readers, I was captivated. Not only did we share a passion in stenography, but we also shared a common language besides English — Cantonese. It was a perfect trade-off of skills: Jade was proficient in Phoenix Theory (she taught herself the program) and can write at up to 250wpm, a goal I hope to someday attain; and I was fluent in Cantonese (it being my first language), a goal Jade someday hopes to attain. It was a win-win situation for us to learn from each other, and our meet-up was imminent.
We immediately began talk of steno: the issue of reporters being replaced with digital recording devices. Jade quickly reiterated what many in the reporting field have said – that as long as you can write realtime, you’ll have work to do; especially in Asia and Australia where realtime work is plentiful and preferred. We talked a lot about realtime, as that was the area I was most interested in and also the most curious about. When Jade spoke of having a real, live editor next to her in the courts as she wrote, with the text being edited simultaneously, I was amazed. I was not aware that this was possible. In the Ontario courts, I know that the CRs can send their files to their scopists right away for editing, but it was amazing to me that the transcript could be finished and sent before you left home for the day. Right away, I thought of the hours that would be saved from not having to edit. I know plenty of reporters in Toronto who spend uncountable hours editing and going through their transcripts before sending them off. The idea of writing realtime with an editor by your side is extremely enticing. Although Jade rarely has to edit, when she does do so for depositions, she comments that she typically edits ten pages at a time to break up the monotony; a handy tip, and also another reason why she much prefers realtime work over depositions.
Between our discussions, Jade also mentioned the LiveNote software she uses which allows lawyers to follow the realtime transcript. I found it incredibly fascinating. I also asked Jade how long it typically takes her to edit a transcript, and she said it usually doesn’t take her more than a few hours if she knows where she’s made her errors. It was interesting to learn that they use Eclipse in their agency, although one editor does use Case Catalyst.
As a speedbuilding student in her 140s who is eagerly anticipating the moment when she can fly through her 160s, 180s, and beyond, I asked Jade if there were any tips to succeed in realtime speeds. As most students can relate to, new names and terms frequently cause hesitation. To my surprise, Jade said one of the solutions to writing out foreign names and terms quickly on the job would be to finger spell them. She said finger spelling is necessary to succeed in realtime work and commented that many reporters do not finger spell well enough, and this is a hindrance to their speed overall. Tip #2: Practice finger spelling names and unfamiliar terms!
I was curious as to what challenges Jade has as a realtime reporter. Surely, her fears must be the daunting task of staying on top of the speakers that speak at inhuman speeds! To my surprise, it weren’t the 280 wpm speakers (and heaven forbid, 300 wpm) that alarmed her, but the ones who have a heavy foreign accent. Jade commented that after being unable to decode particularly heavy accents during a case in Singapore, she would rather take fast-talkers on than someone whom she is unable to decipher. This was a revealing truth into the life of a court reporter, as someday I won’t just have to worry about keeping up with the fast-talking witnesses, but also words in multitudes of accents that I will have to accurately take down. Tip #3: Fantastic reminder to begin practice on foreign speakers with heavy accents as soon as possible.
Lastly, we spoke of professional machines and student machines. This was Jade’s turn to be taken aback when I told her that upon graduation, students were required to buy a professional machine in order to start working. She related the story of a brilliant reporter who used a SmartWriter, an old writer for 30 years. She stated that despite what people may say, it is really the skill of the reporter that makes up the value of court reporter, and not necessarily how new or expensive the machine is.
It goes without saying that this was an incredible and unforgettable experience. Not only did I get a chance to speak to and pick the mind of one of the most experienced reporters in the field, but also I had the chance to learn about the court reporting field from the other side of the world. Jade opened my eyes to aspects that I was not aware of before, and I returned to Canada with a renewed perspective on stenography. I cannot thank Jade enough for spending an afternoon to chat steno and for sharing her insight and experiences with me. I look forward to another meet-up in the near future, as well as one day working in the realtime field as colleagues.
To read Jade’s take on our meet-up, click this link: http://jadeluxe.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/student-machine/