Understanding Phonetic Transcription

By: Verbit Editorial
Phonetic transcription

Today’s business leaders should always be looking for ways to improve their company’s communication internally and with the public. These efforts may encompass brand awareness and marketing strategies. Achieving these objectives often requires transcription tools that keep word-for-word records of meetings and events.

While verbatim transcription is important, there are other methods of recording words that contain even more information. For instance, phonetic transcription notes the way speakers pronounce words through a system of symbols. This extra level of detail can help businesses better connect and engage with employees and consumers in a variety of scenarios.

Table of Contents:

Breaking down phonetic transcription

letters for IPA transcriptions

Phonetic transcription makes use of a special alphabet of symbols known as the international phonetic alphabet (IPA). There are around 44 “diacritics” in IPA. Each diacritic symbolizes the different sounds that speakers often make when pronouncing a word. Those variations in tone, emphasis and pronunciation can be vital for interpreting context. 
In recent years, more people are conducting their work remotely and companies have workforces that span the globe. In this shifting environment, IPA transcription can benefit participants and content readers. For example, IPA phonetic transcription helps people understand the nuances in words by emphasizing vocal elements like pitch, intonation and syllables. Additionally, phonetic transcription allows more insight into the proper pronunciation of words. Sometimes, an employee might be new to English. In other situations, the industry might use a lot of niche jargon. In either case, having this tool is a great way to learn proper pronunciation. Business leaders can likely identify places where an IPA transcript would prove useful for performing their tasks or supporting their employees. 

Phonetic transcription use cases for business leaders to consider

Phonetic transcription can enhance business processes and engagement with employees, clients and consumers. Here are several strong reasons for companies to phonetically transcribe words: 

Sales Calls

Phonetic transcription can be useful when conducting sales calls. These calls account for 92% of all customer interactions. B2B business professionals especially benefit from this transcription, as they’re often trying to pitch and build buy-in for a product. Using phonetic transcription can help improve sales communications with these clients. Additionally, international prospects will likely be joining many of these calls. When a diverse group of individuals are all on the line, and some are participating in a non-native language, phenetic transcription can help facilitate better communication.  

Live Meetings

Statistics now indicate that 89% of employees work within global teams. In most cases, employees will need to connect with colleagues who speak different languages and come from different cultures. Phonetic transcription can serve as an aid in these global environments. By bridging communication and language barriers, phonetic transcription supports people are working in-person and within online work environments. 


72% of recruiters believe that artificial intelligence (AI) can positively impact their work. AI-powered phonetic transcription is one of the tools that can support these professionals. With a phonetic transcript, employees can improve the interview process for everyone involved. For example, these transcriptions can help recruiters communicate more effectively with potential candidates who come from diverse backgrounds.  

Branding Guidance

Brand name pronunciation is known to have a significant influence on consumer behavior. When it comes to building your brand’s awareness, phonetic transcription can be a useful form of guidance in a company’s brand book. It is also a strategy that supports the inclusive of non-native speakers. Sales representatives and marketing professionals, as well as outside contractors can all benefit from this tool. With phonetic transcripts, everyone can know they’re conveying brand and product information to others correctly.  

Two women on a computer

What is the difference between phonemic transcription and phonetic transcription?

Phonetic transcriptions are typically more detailed and make exact notes of every sound a speaker says through symbols. Since each sound has one symbol, phonetic transcripts can sometimes be long and complex. In comparison, phonemic transcription is known as a type of shorthand for phonetic transcription. 

Individuals speaking about phonemic transcription may also use the term ‘broad’ transcription.” This type of transcription uses fewer symbols to describe each sound. When a transcriber uses this method to create a transcript, they will use the same symbol to transcribe similar sounding words and syllables. As long as the sounds are so similar that they involve the same pronunciation, the transcriber can use the same symbol to represent them.  

Here are two examples of phonetic and phonemic transcriptions together: 

Example 1: Clean 

  • Phonemic transcription: ‘clean’ – /klin/ 
  • Phonetic transcription: ‘clean’ – [kl̥i:n] 

Example 2: Strewn 

  • Phonemic transcription: ‘strewn’ – /strun/ 
  • Phonetic transcription: ‘strewn’ – [stru:n] 

The above examples illustrate how transcribers use forward slash brackets around the phonemic transcriptions. Alternatively, square brackets denote phonetic transcriptions. The colon symbol in the transcriptions above helps convey a longer vowel sound to readers. This extra information is useful for non-native speakers who need to understand how to pronounce the words properly. 

Phonemic transcripts support language learners

Transcribing words phonetically can significantly help with language barriers in the workplace. Phonetic transcription is arguably the most useful way to record information, particularly for international teams. The phonetic transcription of words offers employees who are communicating with colleagues who speak different languages an opportunity to practice correct pronunciation. As a result, it can improve fluency while also avoiding embarrassing mispronunciations.  

When it comes to English, many people learning the language find difficulty understanding the relationship between the spelling and the pronunciation. Other languages, including Italian and Korean, have a more direct relationship between their written and spoken languages. The English language, on the other hand, is notoriously complicated. When it comes to spelling, the way a word looks and how someone says it may seem to have little in common. Think of the words “colonel” or “rapport,” both of which sound quite different from how they would if you read them phonetically. Additionally, every “rule” seems to have multiple exceptions.  

For instance, the letter “c” appears three times in the phrase “Pacific Ocean.” Speakers pronounce each “c” in that phrase differently. Transcription that neglects to include the phonetic sound would leave that information out. As a result, people who are learning English might struggle to correctly pronounce that phrase. 
While transcribing phonetics will offer a higher level of detail, there are still other transcription types on the market that can provide benefits to business leaders. 

The value of orthographic transcription & transcription overall

While phonetic transcription can be incredibly useful for pronunciation. However, many people aren’t familiar with this type of notation. Unless a document or video has many foreign or unusual words, other forms like orthographic transcription can be more effective in some business settings. 
Orthographic transcription relies on the conventional spelling in a given language. Most people familiar with a language will recognize the words in their correct spelling, even if they aren’t phonetic. One added benefit of orthographic transcription is that it can help improve your site’s SEO.  

Search engines can’t watch or listen to videos. As a result, unlike text forms of content, video and audio won’t help a site perform better in search results. However, content creators can change that by including orthographic transcripts. Transcripts and captions allow search engines to “crawl,” or find content and key terms more easily. If potential customers and relevant audiences are searching for a product or service that your company offers, a transcribed video can help direct them to your site.  

Of course, any transcription process will require some effort. Fortunately, with the right partner, adding this solution is simple.  

Technology supports transcription methods

Artificial intelligence can support audio and video transcription efforts. Although manual transcription is possible, attempting to transcribe audio files this way is time-consuming, labor intensive and inefficient. Technology offers a way to streamline the process so that you can transcribe everything that you want to preserve in written form.  

Companies like Verbit use AI-based technology to quickly produce live transcripts of meetings and events. Taking this step will make content more engaging and accessible. However, ASR alone can lead to some faulty results. Error rates vary depending on the software, the sound quality and other factors. When accuracy is really important, such as when a transcript is helping offer accessibility, ASR is often not good enough. 

Verbit solves this dilemma with professional human transcribers who ensure accuracy. Oftentimes, this added layer is essential for businesses. Plus, by implementing a hybrid format, Verbit can quickly deliver transcripts. Sometimes with turnaround times of just hours, Verbit can offer accurate, edited transcripts.  

Professionals benefit from accurate transcripts

While using any type of audio transcription can be beneficial, making use of technology like Verbit’s to provide transcription can boost productivity and business communication. 57% of businesses that leverage transcription technologies say it’s a critical factor in the success of their operations. Additionally, transcripts can help employees and video viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing engage with equity. 

Verbit provides captioning and transcription technologies that are designed to help business leaders who are using video and audio content to ensure its effective and engaging to global team members, event audiences, viewers with disabilities and others. Contact us to learn about our easy integrations and how you can start using transcription to meet your specific business’s needs.