Aural Comprehension Guide

David Loberg Code          Western Michigan University

Puzzle Case: Tales from the Steno Pool

The job of the staff in the steno pool is to transcribe (usually in a shorthand) the information recorded by people on tape, and send them back a typed, hard-copy. A less-than-stellar stenographer faced with imminent unemployment has come to you with a desperate plea for help. You agree, and suggest that the two of you try a sample dictation session. You slowly speak the following sentence several times with pauses in between:

"To determine the melody, pay close attention to each beat."

After several minutes, the stenographer hands you their transcription:

"To determin the malody kls? a tension two eats beet."

What advice can you think of to offer the stenographer (besides suggesting a career change)? Go through the transcription carefully and explain each mistake. Do all of the errors stem from a single problem, or are there different types of mistakes? Are there any further questions you might ask or exercises you would try to learn more about how this stenographer works?

Being a kind-hearted soul, you reluctantly agree to help cover for the struggling stenographer by transcribing some tapes. Much to your surprise, you hear the same sentence you used with the stenographer, which you confidently write down and send back. Later, you receive a note from the speaker, a cardiologist by the name of Dr. Corazon, chastising you for the incorrect transcription and warning you that such jokes cannot be tolerated. You listen to the tape again and it still sounds like your sentence. What do think is the correct transcription?

*More Puzzle Cases


David Loberg Code, School of Music, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008. E-mail: 
Revised: 28.Feb.99       (c) 1999