Siri gets Haggis on his face in Scotland

Posted on by Mike Evans

Poor old Siri. Apparently he’s having difficulty understanding a broad Scots accent, particularly in the more impenetrable corners of Glasgow. He’s not the only one. I sometimes need to turn on the subtitles. But it isn’t only in Scotland that Siri is having problems. For such a small country, Britain has an incredibly wide range of accents with dramatically different pronunciation and a collection of dialect words that will certainly not be in the standard vocabulary.

Apple have been bold, offering American English, British English, German and French. It’s a one-size-fits all voice recognition system and relies on fairly standard pronunciation. Britain isn’t the only European country with very strong regional dialects. It’s the same in Germany and in France. I wonder, for instance, what Siri makes of Swiss German, Schwyzerdütsch? Even the Germans can’t understand it, never mind Siri.

Paradoxically, there is far less difference between standard American pronunciation and standard British English than there is between, say, Glaswegian and southern British. Siri seriously needs to mug up on all these twangs if frustration is to be avoided.

All is not lost. I have a friend from Newcastle-on-Tyne who speaks with a Geordie accent that some southerners find difficult to understand. Yet he’s already great mates with Siri on his iPhone 4S and Siri seems to understand his every wish, despite the accent. I’m told that when he asks “When did The Toon¹ last win a football match”, Siri replies “January 1898”. Only joking, lads.


¹ Newcastle United Football Club, known as The Toon (the town)

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