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    Art of practising Shorthand

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    By S.R.Rajagopal

    Though a revolution in information technology has been intruding in every sphere of our life, it cannot completely take over certain areas. One of these areas pertains to stenography. Even in this modern IT gadget related commercial world, every manager in an establishment needs a secretary as his/her assistant. Let us look into the beautiful art of stenography practiced by these secretarial assistants.

    ‘Stenography’ is the art of writing in symbols, known as shorthand corresponding to sounds of speech and the persons practising stenography are known as stenographers. Stenographers’ services are utilised by very top bureaucrats to down below politicians. They keep them as their confidential assistants. They play a major and critical role indirectly in various matters handled by the persons to whom they are attached. Stenography can be practised in any language provided a particular language in which a person wants to practice, has shorthand symbol. Generally, stenography in English language is the one which has been in universal practice and in few regional languages too like Thamizh. Stenographers’ services are utilized to take down notes, letters, speeches etc in greater speed and to transcribe the same. However, nowadays stenographers are rendering multifarious services thereby they are now called as Personal Assistants which means that they render all personal assistance in addition to their service as stenographers. Thus their role has been enlarged over a period of time due to various environmental demands.

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    While general education has gradually been commercialized, technical education has already become part of it. However, standard of shorthand coaching has considerably gone down below the required level in most of the established technical institutes. It is interesting to note that neither students have initiatives nor instructors have involvement. This has resulted in dearth in availability of good stenographers nowadays. Primary reason for this sorry state of affairs is the receipt of inadequate, mechanical and inefficient poor coaching from institutions established for the purpose. Here are some tips offered to students and instructors to excel in the art.

    Learners should possess first of all good writing materials, viz. soft surfaced ruled notebooks, good pencil (lead of which should be such that should distinguish light and thick writing) while practising shorthand. Surface of chair, table bench or desk should be even. Place of writing should be sound proof. This is all the more necessary because shorthand writing is basically the transcription of sounds into language script. Any distorted hearing would lead to improper transcription of the passages being taken down.

    A standard exercise book must be kept by every learning student. Pitman Shorthand book is the one which has been time tested all over the world for English stenographer (known as Pitman Shorthand), for this, book contains stage-by-stage, simple, easily understandable and systematic course contents for the learners.

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    Instructors should fix regular timings daily to teach different groups which could be categorised according to their stage of learning the subject. For example, the learners may be grouped as follows:
    Group ‘A’ - All beginners
    Group ‘B’ - Learners who crossed certain basic levels (say, crossed 100
    exercises or so in Pitman Shorthand book)
    Group ‘C’ - Practisers started speed writing
    Group ‘D’ - Practisers identified for appearing in the examination

    For each core group indicated above, separate timings for coaching must be fixed. If adequate class rooms and instructors are available, then each core group may be taught in a separate class rooms at a time. The segmental coaching will facilitate the students to receive effective, efficient and meaningful coaching in the subject. It will also enable the instructors to give individual attention to the students to impart suitable guidance wherever they lack. If we give mixed coaching to students at one class room and at one time, in an atmosphere where beginners and speed writers sit together receiving the coaching, students may not receive what they should. In the circumstances, practically what the instructors would do is – beginners would be asked to practise something and the speed writers would be given some speed passage. In the midst, students in some other stage would seek some doubts to be clarified. In this event, instructors will not be able to bestow their attention effectively and meaningfully towards different core groups. It leads to poor quality of coaching to students. Therefore, instructors should organise
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    classes in such a way that each core group is taught at different timings or at different class rooms whichever suits the institution but in any case not putting different groups together in one class at a time.

    Instructors should use blackboard in the classroom to coach the beginners. This is essential because when a shorthand symbol is written, it indicates different meaning in different position. For example, the symbol ‘/ ’ if it is written above the line, it is to be transcribed as ‘much’, on the line its meaning is ‘which’ and through the line it is ‘each’. If the symbol ‘ \ ’ is written in thickness on the line it is ‘be ’ and through the line it is
    ‘to be’ – likewise same symbols with the prefix and suffix of dots (.) (called vowels) give variety of words. Therefore, to make the students understand fully and effectively at the basic level, if the instructors use blackboard and explain the basics of symbols, students could easily understand and the basics of shorthand will have strongly instilled in them.

    Learners should be given regular and in-depth homework in the basics of shorthand. Continuous and repeated practice only will help them to achieve the desired qualitative result at the required stage. Systematic and exercise-by-exercise coaching will be the meaningful tool to have effectiveness in learning. For the first three months after the basics in shorthand, one exercise per day may be taken for practising. If the foundation is strong, students would excel at later stage without any difficulty. Learners

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    must be asked to attempt one exercise after one exercise practicing perfectly and thoroughly about strokes and grammalogues introduced in the learning exercise.

    Any attempt to finish fast the exercise ceremoniously and jump on to next one would only land the learners in inefficient, incomplete and ineffective practice in stenography at a later stage. Therefore, a strong and effective foundation must be laid in the beginning itself. This point should be borne in mind both by coachers and coachees. Apart from an hour of coaching at class room, every student should practice exercises/passages etc. at least for 2 hours a day in home. This would pave the way for writing correct strokes and also for gradual increase in speed while writing which is the ultimate goal of practicing.

    Group ‘B’ students should also follow the same procedures as enumerated above for Group ‘A’.

    Group ‘C’ speed writing students should be given a speed passage at class room. Then they must be asked to transcribe the passage verbally. Each student may be asked to transcribe verbally 3/4 sentences rotationally. After this exercise, another speed passage should be dictated to them, which they would transcribe into longhand in home and bring it to class next day. This passage must be read and corrected. Types of mistakes committed should be analysed and accordingly counseling must be done by the instructors. Like this, everyday the same practice should be repeated. Students should

    read newspapers and magazines particularly editorial pages and attempts should be made to transcribe them in shorthand, then in longhand and correct. This repeated exercise would enable the students to have language fluency also while improving their shorthand speed.

    Speed dictation
    Instructors should dictate speed passages picked up from a particular book daily. Rate of speed should be marked in the pages with colour pencil. Speed practicing may be started at 30 words per minute (wpm). Gradually every month 10 words may be added to the speed keeping the level of picking up capacity of the practisers. Speed passages selected for giving dictation should contain simple language to be easily understandable by the practisers. It should not contain engineering and other technical terms at this stage. The instructor should dictate passage at even speed. For example, 400 words passage is to be dictated @ 40 wpm for 10 minutes. Dictator should ensure himself that he dictates the passage all through the 10 minutes evenly @ 40 wpm. Otherwise, if he dictates first 4 minutes @ 30 wpm, then in next 3 minutes @ 60 wpm and remaining @ 35 wpm inconsistently, it would keep the speed practiser in tantrum. That is why in the speed passages, colour pencil noting must be done for every 15 seconds, then for every 1 minute so that consistency could be maintained throughout the speed dictation at the required speed of wpm evenly. This could be achieved only by way of experience. This is one of the essential qualities for instructors to keep in mind while dictating passages.

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    Examination :
    For the students who have reached a certain level of efficiency which gives them confidence to appear in examination, special attention should be bestowed on them to prepare well for examination. Apart from regular speed test, at least once in a week, on the examination pattern, tests should be conducted, answer papers evaluated and students counseled accordingly. Previous years question papers may be given to them for practice.
    Students should practice the Art with all sincerity and commitment to achieve excellence. Equally important is the instructor’s meticulous and systematic coaching. Till the achievement of maximum level of efficiency, determination and perseverance should adorn coachers as well as coachees. Objective of learning shorthand should not be just to get simply a certificate for being shown as a passport to get into employment. The learned art should be useful in their practical profession with executional excellence.
    Excellent qualitative high speed writing could be achieved in one year if systematic practice is put in by the learners of this valuable art. Some of the institutions advertise 2/3 months course for passing the shorthand examination. One can well imagine the quality contents of such courses and the professional excellence of students coming out of such institutions. They would definitely suffer in their professional execution due to poor foundation laid when they learn the course in short period. Methodical and systematic coaching and learning is the only and excellent way to make one strong in their practicing Art.

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    There was situation when people from economically weaker sections only preferred learning shorthand due to involvement of less cost for learning after their SSC as they didn’t afford to join colleges to further their studies. Affluent sections did consider these as poor men’s subject. However, now the situation has completely changed. Even in this IT season, vast opportunities still persist in central and state government departments, public sector undertakings etc. Learning of this art is priceless and invaluable. Apart from getting government employment, in the long run, stenography helps an individual throughout his survival. Therefore, art of stenography should not construed as one of the employment tools like others, but it is to be enjoyed (one can enjoy) while practicing like any other practicing ARTS.

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    Chennai 600014
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