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What did they actually say? Agreement and Disagreement among Transcribers of Non-Native Spontaneous Speech Responses in an English Proficiency Test

By Klaus Zechner


This paper presents an analysis of differences in human transcriptions of non-native spontaneous speech on a word level, collected in the context of an English Proficiency Test. While transcribers of native speech typically agree at a very high level (5 % word error rate or less), this study finds substantially higher disagreement rates between transcribers of non-native speech (10%-34 % word error rate). We show how transcription disagreements are negatively correlated to the length of utterances (fewer contexts) and to human scores (impact of lower speaker proficiency) and also seem to be affected by the audio quality of the recordings. We also demonstrate how a novel multi-stage transcription procedure using selection and ranking of transcription alternatives by peers can achieve a higher quality gold standard that approaches the quality of native speech transcription. 1

Year: 2011
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