I first wrote about Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 here. My experience with the dictation software right out of the box was a good one. It was relatively easy to set up, the included microphone recognized my voice pretty well, and I was immediately able to give my poor wrist a break.
Now, after using Dragon pretty regularly for three weeks on various translation tasks, I have a few more comments to add. Keep in mind, this is just my own personal experience!
- Dragon doesn’t seem to like to work in tables. I had 70 pages of annual financial tables to translate, and I thought to myself, “oh, won’t it be nice to have Dragon retype all these numbers for me?” (OCR wasn’t cutting it on a tight deadline.) It worked for maybe half the document, but after a while, Dragon seemed to get just as tired as I would have been typing out all those X millions and Y billions. When I issued correction commands, Dragon would sometimes erase half of the table. Thank goodness for Apple + Z!
- Dragon can be taught foreign words. For instance, Forditohaz. I was drafting a statement that made several references to this Hungarian translators house. Rather than correct the weird suggestions every time, I simply used the vocabulary editor to make Dragon recognize the foreign sounds as a single foreign word. I had less success teaching it foreign names I use often, like Matolcsy. But, I am optimistic.
- Dragon sometimes has difficulty recognizing the beginning of a sentence. When I start dictating a new sentence, 80% of the time, Dragon correctly capitalizes the first word. 20% of the time, though, Dragon simply adds an extra space and then uses a lowercase letter to start the sentence. This is fine, because I always proofread my work before submitting, but it does add an extra set of errors that I may potentially miss.
- Dragon increases my speed of translation. The requirement that I think through my sentences before I “type” them has cut out the need for lots of extra revisions. My first drafts are markedly better with dictation software. Even complicated legal sentences with three or four extra clauses come out better the first time around when I speak it than when I type it.
- The act of translation is less physically exhausting with Dragon. I can work for longer periods of time without a drop in quality. In the past, at the end of the day, I would sometimes need to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes just to rest my hands and stretch my back. With dictation, I can stand up and stretch as I “type.”
In sum, I’m still pretty happy with how Dragon works for straight-text translations. It’s a real blessing to have someone else doing the typing for me. And really, when Dragon starts acting cranky, I turn it off for a little while, let it rest, and its performance generally improves after a nap. Even when working in those darned tables, Dragon and I compromised. I would type columns of reference code numbers by hand, and then dictate the short descriptions and the dollar amounts. It still saved me a lot of typing in the end.
If you are a translator who has difficulty typing — for whatever reason — I strongly recommend the software. As with any new tool, you will have to spend some time learning the ins and outs of its use. But, considering the benefits Dragon Dictate offers, the start-up cost in terms of time is pretty negligible. Even right out of the box.