Thoughts on passing my 100wpm shorthand exam

The past seven days have been full of writing and journalism-related opportunities. From an inspiring masterclass from columnist Owen Jones on Monday, to chatting to fellow writers in the local pub on Wednesday, the sense of enthusiasm I gained from talking to imaginative people was fantastic. However, as well as the events, there was also some news. On Tuesday, I found out that I had passed my 100 words-per-minute shorthand exam.

Shorthand Pen and Notebook
Photo: Wannabe Hacks on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

There was a sense of disbelief that came with seeing my name on the list of people who had passed. Despite feeling confident after the test, doubt over certain parts of my submission made me question whether I was successful and I was quick to assume that I was unlucky for the third time. I had already began to organise the resit, and so to find out that that was unnecessary was a great weight off my shoulder. The news came as a relief as well as a wonderful surprise.

I always loved shorthand ever since I started learning it back in September 2015. The ability for languages to aid communication – be it breaking down a semantic barrier or help write words quicker – has always fascinated me. Having learned British Sign Language in the space of two years (to a degree that I can now have a full conversation with a BSL user and use fingerspelling if I’m in trouble), I was looking forward to the challenge of reaching the 100wpm milestone as soon as possible.

It took a couple of attempts to get there, though. Unlike other languages where it’s a question of memorising an extensive vocabulary, shorthand is all about building up speed. With that, came plateaus, where it felt like I had reached a certain level and I was stuck there. If I remember rightly, there was one between the 60wpm-80wpm gap, and then getting up to the crucial 100wpm also led to a few problems on this front, too.

Then came the fact that the language requires a lot of quick thinking alongside listening to what the speaker is saying. It’s something which can be difficult as a deaf person when I’m trying to process what I’ve heard (more on this here), but if anything, passing this exam has clearly shown that my speed on that front has improved as well.

As much as shorthand was a challenge, it was of course great fun, too. Like a typical puzzle on the back pages of a newspaper, there was a sense of it being almost like a logical test, too.

When you look back on your notes and see a word missing from a sentence, you often have to look at the other words around the unknown one to get a sense of what it could be (‘context is everything’, as it were). If not that, then trying to decipher the almost text-speak structure of the language would be fun (for example, realising that TRFC was the word ‘traffic’). As someone who loves logic puzzles, I also saw shorthand as a fun game as well as an interesting language. I imagine that feeling won’t fade now that I’ve passed my 100wpm exam.

Whilst my lessons at university have now come to a close, I am never one to completely abandon the languages which I have learned over the years (memories of GCSE French still linger around in my mind) and so I will no doubt continue to use shorthand when in the industry. Thanks must go to my tutor, Pat, for all her encouragement and support over the two years to get me to such a milestone.

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