Siri Doesn’t Understand Scottish Accents

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At its last conference, Apple introduced Siri, a robotic virtual system that comes embedded in the new iPhone 4S.  Right after it was introduced, Apple caught a lot of flack for Siri’s name, which sounds vulgar in both Japanese and Georgian.

Now that the product has been released to the general public, Apple is getting a different type of negative translation-related feedback. Though Siri is supposed to work with all US, UK and Australian accents, it’s apparently giving some Scottish users fits as it doesn’t always understand their commands.

Some Scottish users seem to have more trouble than others. It almost feels wrong to laugh at this poor bastard, for example, as he tries over and over again to get Siri to “create a reminder.”  This gentleman had a little bit better luck, but still had some problems setting appointments and sending messages.

According to TPM, Siri even has trouble with words like “cheers,” which it interprets as “chairs.” This caused Scottish novelist James Robertson to complain that Apple’s “linguistic imperialism” could have the effect of muting the Scottish people’s unique and beautiful accent:

“If the phone doesn’t recognise a simple word like ‘cheers’ it won’t recognise much. People are obliged to moderate their voices to make themselves understood by machines. It has the effect of modulating everyone’s voice toward the most powerful, dominant people in the world.”

What’s really galling is that the product’s instructions, as reprinted on the Daily Mail, say that

“Siri is designed to recognise the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries listed above [the US, the UK and Australia]. Since every language has its own accents and dialects, the accuracy rate will be higher for native speakers.”

Unless, of course, you’re from Scotland.