You CAN type faster than you speak. Here’s how


(English subtitles/粵字)

StenoKeyboards Uni:


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Wow, how do you type so fast? Are you using cheats?

Do you want to type so fast as well? Keep watching if you do!

Hello everyone, I’m Israel! On this channel, I usually make videos about languages and language learning. But today’s a bit different. This time, I want to talk to you about typing!

Today, I came all the way to Edinburgh to meet up with Samuel, my co-host on our podcast.

Hi, I’m Samuel!

To tell you all about a hobby of ours. You might know that we quite like to learn languages. So are we learning a new language this time?

Well yes, but actually no.

Why is that so? Because we want to tell you about something called stenography.

What is stenography?

It used to be a writing technique, but now it’s for typing. So compared to normal typing on the QWERTY keyboard that we usually use, how is it different?

Firstly, the biggest difference between stenography and typing is that stenography is based on sounds instead of letters. And its goal is to input text at the speed of speaking. Unlike normal typing — when you’re typing, you’re always slower than speaking.

I’ve tried my best, but I still can’t reach that speed.

And in terms of operation, the biggest difference is when you’re typing, you press a key, and you see a character on the screen. But when you’re writing with stenography, you press several keys at the same time, like playing a chord on the piano. And when you stroke once, the computer takes the keys that you pressed and converts them into the text that you want. That text, as well as what keys get you what text, can be added and edited by yourself.

Who uses stenography?

This might be a relatively unfamiliar concept to you guys, so what kinds of people use stenography?

In the English world, it’s usually used in courts to record what’s being said by whom. Because people usually speak quite fast in court, and there’s a need to record speech accurately.

Secondly, when you watch TV, there are sometimes instant subtitles, which are sometimes made using stenography.

Yes, I often see them on BBC. The subtitles show up only scene word by word, especially recently when the Queen passed. I was watching live news. I looked at the subs below, which usually lagged a little bit behind, but they were mostly able to follow what was being said.

Why learn stenography?

Yes, these are all things that you can see and are made using stenography. So Israel, why did you start learning stenography?

We normally enjoy learning different skills, which can stimulate the brain, and we like to learn to type quickly. Even before we started learning stenography, we sometimes practised typing. But one important thing about stenography is that it has a lot of language-related elements, and the process of learning stenography is a bit like learning a new language.

Some time ago, we saw a video where a student of court stenography introduced the concept of stenography. When we saw it, we thought it seemed interesting. We wondered if it’s something we can learning, but it looked like they had very special instruments, so it seemed to be some very professional thing, something out of reach for normal people.

And you have to study in university. Yes, you’ve got to do an actual degree, and then you have to take an exam, this and that. Is it something that normies like us can do?

But later we found out that indeed, yes we can! So we really wanted to learn this thing.

At this point in the video, if you’re feeling interested, don’t forget to press like and subscribe and ding the bell to see our future stenography videos!

How to learn stenography?

Now that we’ve said that you need professional equipment to learn it, how did we get started? So we got ourselves this. It’s called The Uni. It’s a keyboard made by some very passionate stenography fans. As you can see, it’s made out of normal keyboard keys. It’s keys from regular mechanical keyboards. They soldered this themselves and sold it.

So around half a year ago, the three of us hosts of the podcast all wanted to learn stenography, so we all bought a Uni.

This is not an ad, we’re not sponsored, we don’t get paid.

So we’ve been learning for around half a year. We’ve yet to get to a good speed, but we’ve made some progress.

When you first look at this keyboard, the first thing you might notice is that there are no letters on top of it. It’s all white and blank, which is very different from the letters on our usual keyboards. Next, you might notice that the appearance and shape are very different from our usual keyboards. It only has…Shit, how many keys? 28 keys. So how do you actually write very fast using just these keys?

How does stenography work?

When we look at the English stenography layout, it’s divided into three main parts: one for the consonant at the start of a syllable, one for the vowel, and one for the consonant at the end. The opening consonant is produced here. The consonants include STKPWHR. This one is a special function key, I won’t get into details. And then the vowel at the middle is produced using these four keys. These two are once again special keys. These four keys are AOEU. Finally, the ending consonant is produced using this side. You’ll notice that this side has more keys. First, you have a function key, I won’t talk about that. And then you’ve got FRPBLGTSDZ. And indeed, compared to the left hand side, there are some overlaps.

Now, let’s all see how Samuel uses these keys to put together words. Most simply, some words can be made just using existing keys, such as PAT, HARD. Longer words include WORLD and SPORTS.

But how do we write a sound when there isn’t a separate key? We use a combination of keys to represent one sound. For example, the opening B is a combination of P and W. The ending N is P and B. The /ɪ/ vowel is a combination of E and U. Let’s looking at some examples: BAT, HORN, STRINGS are written this way.

At this point, you might ask: most English words are longer than one syllable. How do we write them? The software is very clever; if you stroke twice in a row, it consults the preexisting dictionary to combine the two or more syllables into one word. For example, if you press a and rive, you see arrive. Often, in order to save time, you skip the weak vowel in the middle of a word. For example, if you stroke rem and then di, they become remedy. Or kam and ra become camera.

But there are so many multisyllable words. How do you write faster? One of the important elements in stenography is briefs. Usually, you use some specific rules to omit some sounds, and they’re usually used to write common words. More intuitive ones include delete: you omit the opening vowel, and stroke dlete as if it’s one syllable. Surprise drops the first vowel and becomes sprise. Explain also shortens the opening. This time it loses the ex to become splain. There are also some irregular ones, such as INTERESTING, CONTINUE and QUESTIONS.

These words get a special shortcut because of how common they are. Besides, when we speak, there are some words or even whole phrases that are commonly used together. So sometimes, one brief can write an entire sentence, for example: I HAVE NO IDEA and WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO.

And you personally might often use certain sentences, names, addresses, even numbers. You can make your own brief to write it out with one stroke. For example, the name of this channel, RHAPSODY IN LINGO. You’re very welcome to BUY ME A COFFEE. Also, LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH. Wow, if you were to write this with a normal keyboard, even if you can spell it, that’s gonna take ages!

These are just some basic rules. If you want to learn more about how to learn stenography, you can check out a YouTuber that we admire, Aerick’s videos. We should have the links below. Yes, let’s put some links down there.

The learning process

Over the past half a year, how have we been learning it? Besides learning the basic rules, I feel like the process from zero to writing 80 or 100 words per minute…

You can, I can’t yet.

This process is a lot like learning to type. You’ve probably spent a lot of time learning to type, and I feel like the process is very similar, because the steps are the same.

First, we learn the basic rules. Like when you start learning to type, you learn where your finger goes and where the keys are. And then you start breaking down words, think about how your hand navigates the keyboard. In terms of English stenography, it’s about how you breaking down each word or each syllable.

Next, after you’ve learnt that, you keep practising. But in a certain sense, you learn to type word by word, because whenever you learn a new word, you might be able to guess how to break it down, but there might be a faster way to write it, or the proper way might be different from what you thought. So we learn them one by one, and then you keep practising, until at the very end, it all becomes muscle memory. Yes, it’s really like playing the piano.

At this point, when we need a common word we can immediately figure out how to write it. Well, when you type normally, you don’t think about the movements much either. It’s just a different way of input.

Also, after this much practice, I realise that whenever I see English words in daily life, I naturally start thinking how to stroke them. It’s like when I started learning to type: I would also look at words around me and think, how do I type it on a keyboard? In my head…How do my hands move? Stenography is mostly the same.

Then you get to the moment when you’re completely familiar and don’t have to think about anymore. You stop thinking all the time, you don’t do that anymore.

But we haven’t gotten to that point in stenography yet. I wish I could get there quicker.

Democratisation of stenography

Now, practically, you need to buy a keyboard and download some software. How do you get started?

It used to be harder in the past. But more recently, stenography has been democratised. Some very passionate people have made a piece of software called Plover, which can be used on all computers. And there are also keyboards like The Uni that we showed you. It’s not just this one though — there are many keyboards like this on the market, and hardware made by lovers of stenography.

Doesn’t Kenneth have a new one? He’s buying a new one, I think.

Remember when we talked about the professional stenography students in the beginning? Those machines are so expensive! And the software has copyright I think. You have to go and study in specific schools, otherwise you can’t use it. Buy the machines worth thousands of US dollars…Yes, thousands, literally. This one costs a hundred, which is much, much cheaper, because it’s just normal keyboard parts. There are probably lots of people who enjoy mechanical keyboards where you are, and the ones that they buy probably exceed this price. Yes…I guess? Should be, those can get pretty pricey. You’re more familiar with this, I don’t really know it very well.

Why do we need a special keyboard?

Before we finish this video, some of you might have a question: why do we need a special keyboard, instead of just using a normal keyboard and pressing several keys at the same time?

There are several problems with that. First, as you can see here, the keys on this keyboard are not aligned. Like here, they’re staggered, such as the O and the L on this row, they’re not aligned; neither are this I and this K, so it’s harder to use it like the keyboard over there and cover two keys with the same finger. There is some difficulty here.

Second, a normal keyboard has too many keys. Just the letters take up three rows. Your hand would have to move around it. It’s dancing around the keyboard. This makes stenography on a normal keyboard very very difficult. But if you have this stenography keyboard, it’s designed for you to use each finger to press up to two keys only, most of the time. So it’s either this or that or both at the same time. The division of labour makes it more relaxed; your finger doesn’t have to move around. But in normal typing, you keep having to navigate the keyboard, up and down, left and right as well. One finger is responsible for many keys, whereas this is much simpler.

The last problem is if you were to write words like pop and dad, how would you do it? They have repeated letters. You have one D, but you don’t have the second one. There is only one P and one O. So if you want to write pop or poop, how would you tell them apart? Since you’re pressing everything at the same time, you can’t press it twice. If you were to press the key again for the second letter, it defeats the purpose of stenography. Why don’t I just type on this keyboard instead? Besides, on a normal keyboard, if you type something like dab, and you’re pressing everything at the same time, there is no difference between this and bad. So the software can’t tell which one you’re trying to write. But a stenography keyboard is divided into opening and ending sounds, so it’s easy to separate dab and bad or words like these.

Stenography in other languages?

Is stenography only available in English?

No it’s not just English. Lots of languages have stenography systems. English is just the most popular and most common and the easiest to learn — easiest to find resources to learn it. And as we speak, there is no stenography system for Cantonese, but we’re trying to make a system for Cantonese right now. We’re in the process of designing it. There are many, many difficulties, because after all English is very different from Cantonese. You can’t just take the English system and put it in Cantonese. You know, Cantonese has tones, or certain consonants and vowels that are different, so we need to design it in a different way.

So how’s the creation going so far. It’s underway, I’m trying very hard. If we have the chance in the future, when it’s finished, we can share it here with everyone. I don’t know when or where I’ll have the opportunity again to introduce this system together with Samuel, but that’s all for now!

If you’re interested in languages or language learning, my channel has a lot more videos for you to binge. Our Rhapsody in Lingo podcast also lives on this channel, or you can find it on all major podcast platforms. We discuss any topic related to languages and linguistics. Please come and support our show!