back to article Blighty's Android fans get British English voice control

Google has revealed that Voice Actions, the series of spoken commands that allows users to control their Android phone just by talking to it, now supports good ol' British English. The company announced on Friday that folk in the UK - not to mention France, Italy, Germany and Spain - can all now use the Voice Actions feature …

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  1. genome

    chances of it recognising scottish accents probably still null

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      The voice recognition in the "Communicate" translator app doesn't have any problem with my Scottish accent. Having said that, neither do most English people, even ones that can't understand a word of Rab C Nesbitt. So it might not understand Rab C, but it should be OK with Kirsty Wark.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        A few years ago we bought some voice recognition software for a glaswegian member of staff. It coped pretty well with his accent, but one word it couldn't manage was "word". Even after much training it couldn't cope with his pronunciation (sort of wurrud) and worm was as close as it got.

        A pity since he had to discuss Microsoft Worm quite often.

    2. Vincent Ballard

      Eleven!

      1. Law

        please remain calm.

    3. johnnytruant

      They don't do Scottish accents

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FFRoYhTJQQ

  2. Geoff Thompson
    Coat

    Geordie?

    Well, yes, but about a third of the UK will not be able to send a text to, navigate to or find anyone or thing with a name beggining with H.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But surely almost everybody has a regional accent to some extent. Very few people actually speak the queen's english. Even the queen.

  4. David Harrison 1

    I wonder how well it copes with Mummerset accents on Talk Like A Pirate Day?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would be today then.

  5. Stumpy Pepys

    As someone afflicted with a northern English accent

    I've never had much of a problem with Google Voice, which works far better than I ever expected.

    I wish I could say the same for the voice recognition on Windows 7.

    1. Chris Miller

      A northern accent

      is rather closer to US pronunciation than is RP (short vowels, etc.)

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge

    RP only

    Na farkin use darn aaar end meight.

  7. Sam Liddicott

    so...

    Instead of my phone hating me cos I'm not really american, it will now hate me cos I'm not REALLY british.

    (I'm feeling sardonic today).

  8. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit
    Headmaster

    now supports good ol' British English

    No, it now supports English. It used to support American English only but now it supports English as well. Ours is the original, all other forms are variations that must be qualified.

    1. peyton?

      Are you sure

      It wasn't your ancestors who spoke the Original English?

  9. Mondo the Magnificent

    Do you speak American?

    Strangely enough my old Nokia Mobile had no issues with my British accent and neither did my (Dragon engined) Blue Connect car kit, which itself had a female American drawl..

    Does Android use the Dragon engine, or did they develop their own? I guess it's most certainly the latter..

  10. PaulR79

    Still doesn't recognise "mum" or "mam" and instead changes it to "mom". Localisation fail!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      OK for us 'midlanders' (mainly west) then..

      ..it's not just the yanks who say MOM - we say it too :-)

      I used to think that 'mum' was just a London/posh way to say 'mom' (our birthday cards, mothers' day cards etc even say 'mom'). Weird.

    2. mfraz

      I think the dictionary is still American - there are things like Personalization and Airplane mode in the settings menu - even though language is set at English (United Kingdom).

      1. Miek

        and ...

        I still haven't found a British keyboard layout with a £ symbol placed more prominently than the $ symbol.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it punish the current breed of youngsters who believe 'H' is pronounced 'haitch', rather than 'aitch'?

    I certainly 'ope so.

    1. Craigness

      Haitch

      Haitch works :-(

      And 'ope comes out as Hope

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TAB

    Many years ago I was in the states and had trouble ordering drinks one day. Coke and Doctor Pepper went down OK, coffee was understood, but one of our party required a Tab. It took about six attempts before I finally resorted to pointing at the relevant can. "Oh, you mean a Taib!" was the reply. Turns out the lady thought I meant a tub of something. Being from the West Riding when I say tab it sounds like tab, a T, and A and a B is pronounced pretty much the same by almost every English speaker except for the Queen (teb) and the residents of the part of the US who pronounce it taib. The difference is that the queen would understand if you pronounced it normally. This woman didn't.

    Now how would an Android device cope?

    1. Craigness

      Dan!

      I listen to a US-based podcast which has a Q&A section. A Londoner called Dan sometimes calls:

      Dan: Hi, it's Dan from London...

      Host: Hi, Don...

  13. Octoberon
    WTF?

    You say tomato...android says, "ya what, buddy?"

    The Android Market page linked in the article still has a caveat about how Voice Actions is US only. Am I missing something here?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a jolly holiday with Mary...

    When it says a 'British' accent, does that mean we all have to sound like Dick Van Dyke or is it modern Disney where we all have to sound like we live in stately homes in the countryside?

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      What about the "British" accents in Frasier, where even British actors were forced to adopt weird US interpretations of British regional accents. Dahpne's accent was odd enough, but her three brothers had accents which came from completely different parts of Britain. Some of which even appeared to move around the country in the space of a single sentence.

      Or what about Helen Baxendale's accent when she appeared in Friends? I've never heard anybody in Britain speak with that accent.

      I can understand American actors (well second rate ones at least) not being able to do a British accent. And I'm sure most US citizens have a hearty laugh at British actors trying to do a US accent. What I don't get is why they try to tell British actors how to do a British accent.

  15. Paul 135

    Google really needs to clarify what it means by "British English". It really shouldn't advertise it as such unless it can deal with Scottish, Welsh, Ulster Geordie, Yorkshire, West Country etc. accents.

  16. Gary F

    It's not on the Market - a bit premature

    As of 16:04 the market says: "Voice Actions is only available in US English for now." The current release is dated June. Nothing new so far. :-(

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British English?

    Wtf is British English? I think you mean, "English". Or, if you must, "English as her Maj speaks it". Maybe you could throw in the phrase "received pronunciation".

    If anyone wants to argue: 1) head for Glasgow; 2) Enter pub; 3) Suggest to some gentleman that he has a nice "British English" accent. His reply? I've got no idea, either.

    1. Christoph

      His reply

      Probably a Glasgow handshake.

      1. Law

        surely you mean...

        ...a Glasgow Kiss.... ?

  18. thesykes

    useless as ever...

    Tried to navigate to my brothers house (OK, I do know the way, it was a test!), and it eventually recognised me saying his name, then completely ignored his entry in my contacts and did a company search on the net and offered some useless suggestions.

    So, tried to phone my son, recognised his name immediately, and then offered a building company in Bishop's Stortford (I'm in Yorkshire, thanks), a family sevice centre in New Zealand (not one word in the offered text matched either name) and some stranger in Cambridge... Massachusetts...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funnily, I was watching this last night...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iNtOWLS7aY

  20. IR

    Is this different from the voice control app included in Android as default (the icon looks identical)? That has been available in British English for over a year. When I first tried using it, it didn't recognise even a simple phrase like "Call Nikki" unless I put on an awful American accent, but I changed the setting to British and it has worked fine since.

  21. AceRimmer1980

    This is clearly nonsense.

    It never reaches 20 degrees in Bristol.

  22. Gonebirdin

    hhhmmmm?

    I tried searching for Stevenage Weather and ended up getting Stevie Nicks in leather!

  23. Craigness

    Who knew?

    I have a few friends with Android phones who only recently found Google Talk (instant messaging/video chat). One of them had his phone for a year before finding it and the other only found Talk because I messaged him. I don't have an iphone yet I know they have Facetime which allows people with Apple products to speak to people with Apple products, but those Android users have a far superior product which can put them in touch with anyone with a browser, and those guys didn't know anything about it!

    Google Voice Commands is built into the search widget so I originally thought it was only for searching the web. It wasn't until it misheard me and started dialling a colleague that I realised it could do so much more. If even Android owners don't know what it's capable of then how can non-users know it's the best on the market? If Google had the marketing power of Apple then Android would be even further ahead than it already is.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regions?

    Ah hayt ta remind y'all, bu there ain't jes wun Murican accent.

    There's The South, There's the Bahston accent (pahk the cah at the bah), the New Yarker, like, the Valley and junk, the Wisconsin dontchano, the Ghetto Gansta, the ANSI standard generic Midwestern (educated), and the Midwestern (not so educated) (wash vs. worsh), and of course the Getting Close To The South Border accent.

    NOBODY is accent-less - there's just "My accent" and "all you other folks who are wrong".

  25. Steven Raith

    "Navigate to Whitby"

    No, I don't want to go to White Bee.

    "Navigate to Wick"

    No, I don't want to go west, or to work.

    "Navigate to Pickering"

    Christ, you want to take me to Pickering!

    Ah, but there's fuck all worth seeing in Pickering. And I know how to get there by about seven different routes.

    Google Voice Search - Technically curious; practically useless.

    Steven R

    (Accent - softened Caithness accent (Google "wick"), with southern twang from seven years in Herts, and Yorkshire inflections from two years in Scarbados, Metropolis Of The North - I'll admit, it's a challenge for Google...)

  26. Peter Galbavy
    Thumb Down

    not yet, it's not

    Still showing old "US only" version both from the phone and from the link in the article... Too much press release re-release or too much liquid lunch with some googlepr?

    1. Argh

      Strangely, there are 2 voice searches from Google.

      The other one is https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.android.voicesearch.x and the changelog says it's now international, but the reviews say that it force closes for quite a few people (including myself).

      1. Craigness

        @Argh

        The one you linked to is for Android 2.1, the other is for 2.2 and up. I've got 2.3, am told the app is incompatible with my phone and I'm prevented from downloading it.

        The compatibility check clearly doesn't work for everyone but the version thing explains reviews like this one (Desire HD came out with 2.2 installed)

        "Force close on Desire HD - the other one in the market works perfectly"

        1. Simple Si

          Two versions

          I noticed two versions on the market for me with my HTC Desire HD. To get the non-US version installed I had to uninstall the updates for voice search using the market, restart then install the new international version and restart again after a force close error message. After that, all seemed fine. I can now get my phone to send texts, get navigation instructions using voice command - hazzah!

    2. Craigness

      Servers

      The app is just a front end to a web-based service. They don't need to update the app to introduce new dialects, but updating the description of the app would be useful.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the 64,000 dollar question

    does it know what herbs (with an 'aitch') are?

    1. Thecowking

      Yes, it does. I just checked.

      Still has trouble with "Thruppence Ha'penny" though. I assume that'll be added later.

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  29. heyrick Silver badge

    What!?!?

    The voice dialler on my Motorola DEFY (bought in France, set to use British English language) sounds like a Norland Nanny, greeting me with "Say a commahhhnd". The only way the phone seems to understand me is if I reply with an equally cut glass accent.

    So, yeah, I'd kinda say my phone *itself* has understood British for a while. Google's speech-to-text, on the other hand, seems happiest with my abysmal impression of a Texan. When speaking (northern Hampshire/west Surrey) British, some of the mishearings are hysterical.

  30. Mexflyboy

    Stop whining, and invent!

    I get tired of the Brits who whine about Amerrrrican companies that don't cater to British accents... by sheer numbers, it makes more sense for an Amerrrican company to target the USA market (307 million souls) versus the tiny UK market (60 million souls)... I imagine that if Microbarf had been British, we Amerrricans would be whining instead about parochial Brits...

    Instead, the UK government/IT industry needs to get off its ass and create its own version of Microbarf.. (well, I believe ARM *is* the Microsoft of chips, but the problem is that it's all at the backend, whereas Windoze is always up and front...)

    But the British can be as blinkered as the Americans: I now live in the UK, and I am surprised by how many Brits whine about going to America and not being understood... why the feck should Americans understand?? The Brits are exposed much more to US accents than the other way around (due to American TV, movies, and music available here in ol' Blighty), AND British and American English accents are quite different... British English seems to be influenced by French speech patterns, which make it tricky to understand Brits unless (like me) you've been exposed to a variety of UK accents over time...

    British English seems to do the "liaison" thing that French does at the end of a word... for example in British English "It is pretty" tends to be pronounced "Ih tis pretty", versus the American "Iht iz preddy"... (I'm a language geek, so sue me!)

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      All my mates who've been to the states have found it amusing when people don't understand them ('those stupid americans' etc), but generally found it to be an asset. Apparently a british (well, english) accent makes us sound more intelligent, and it really does work wonders for attracting the opposite sex.

    2. BoldMan

      My word old chap,, it seems one has a considerable chip on one's shoulder so may I politely suggest you return forthwith to the blighted land that gave you birth dear boy.

  31. Ben Rosenthal

    "regional dialects"

    that's everyone, if you don't think you have a regional dialect, you must come from Laaaahndahhhn.

  32. Alan 43

    wonder how it copes with Northern Irish accent

    lol must set a Ballymena man on it and see how it copes with the Ulster-Scots accent http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suN2yfotE5Q

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Except of course Ulster is not part of Great Britain and as such they don't speak British English there. That would be UK English.

      </PEDANT>

  33. heyrick Silver badge

    Way back when...

    ...I tried a voice recognition program from a cover-mounted CD. I had to spend around ten minutes talking to it, specific phrases read off the screen. Afterwards, it worked fairly well (as well as hardcore number crunching on a 75MHz Pentium would allow).

    Perhaps Google's voice recognition ought to have a training session and a user profile option to allow improved accuracy for regional accents?

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