Siri® Understands Me Now: How Accent Reduction Aids in the Use of Voice-Recognition Technology

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Most of us recognize the voice of Siri®, the iPhone’s voice – assisted technology. But Siri® doesn’t recognize the pronunciation of everyone who attempts to communicate with her. Apple says that she handles 1 billion voice requests per week, but many non-native speakers have reverted back to text-based requests after Siri® failed to grasp what they were asking.

As an accent reduction trainer, I received a flood of new inquiries from internationals in the US when Siri® was first released. People who had thought for years that their pronunciation was good enough were suddenly faced with the fact that this new technology told them otherwise.

Granted, the technology itself is partly to blame. As analyst Jeff Kagan reported in this Fortune article, “[These technologies] are still in their very early growth and frankly get more wrong than right.”

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But it’s not going away. And it’s not just in phones any more. We see voice-assisted technology in cars, in our homes, and even in new wearable technology. From warehouse floors to laboratories to hospital wards, more and more employees are using hands-free devices that require that their speech be easily understood by a computer.

Certainly, the technology will continue to improve and understand more variations on the pronunciation of words. But in the meantime, what can non-native speakers do to use Siri® and other similar programs more effectively?

Accent reduction classes can be very helpful, both in increasing the accuracy of pronunciation and in building confidence.  According to one of my clients, an engineer named Baskar, “the course has helped me tremendously to understand the subtle differences and nuances in the usage of many words.”   Determined to meet his personal accent reduction goals, he thought of a unique way to use voice-recognition software to his advantage. Dragon® Naturally Speaking has become his practice companion. He takes note any time the software misunderstands a word he says, and then uses that list for further practice. As he explains, ” It helps to see what others hear when I say a certain word.”  His English clarity is improving, as is the ease of using a variety of voice- recognition programs. 

After several weeks of working with me, another client, Hari Nallan, proudly announced at the beginning of a session, “Siri® understands me now!” His confidence was boosted by this objective measure that his speech is clearer now than it was just a short time ago. It’s carrying over into his business, too. His clients don’t ask him to repeat himself as often, which makes for smoother transactions as he builds his business worldwide.

Investing the time now to work on pronunciation will pay off quickly, since the need to be understood by voice recognition software is growing rapidly. In fact, according to comScore, 200 billion searches per month will be done with voice by 2020.

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No longer will saying that your English is “good enough” actually be good enough for the voice recognition software that will be an integral part of our daily lives at home and at work.

If you’re not certain that your English is good enough to be understood by the latest voice- recognition software, then it may be time to get an outside evaluation of your pronunciation.
Don’t know where to start? Visit losemyaccent.com to take a free accent screening.

5 Reasons You Need an Accent Reduction Trainer

Accent reduction training is gaining popularity with many non-native speakers of English. The personalized classes can be a great way to improve your American accent quickly and effectively. But how do you know if it is the right choice for you?

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1. You’re tired of repeating yourself

You’ve been studying English for a long time and you have a good grasp of the vocabulary and grammar. But being understood easily when you speak? Well, that’s a different matter. You just want to be able to carry on a conversation without having to repeat yourself every time you speak. An accent reduction trainer can quickly pinpoint the sounds and speech patterns that are causing the greatest difficulty and can help you make significant changes in how easily others understand you.

2. You’re frustrated when other people finish your sentences for you

You know what you wanted to say and you thought you made your point clearly. But someone else stepped in and interrupted you or rephrased what you just said. You’d just like to make your point clearly and be able to finish your sentence without someone else trying to do it for you.

Sometimes, the problem lies in the pronunciation of words and sometimes it is in knowing the necessary vocabulary, grammar, or expressions to make your point clearly. An accent reduction trainer can help you identify the source of the problem and coach you in phrasing your sentences more succinctly so that there will be no need for anyone to finish your sentences for you any longer.

3. You got passed over for a promotion or a new job offer

You had all the right skills and experience and you thought the job was yours. But you never got the call back that you were expecting. Later you heard that the job had gone to someone else -someone that you know wasn’t as qualified as you but whose communication skills were better.

Communication skills are one of the top skills employers are looking for today. Surprisingly, this often ranks higher than experience and training! You may be really good at your job, but if you can’t communicate clearly and confidently with coworkers and clients, you may never have the opportunity to work to your full potential in your career. Investing in accent reduction training has a great ROI, as it opens many doors for advancement that might otherwise not be available to you.

4. You’d like to order a meal in a restaurant without a struggle

Grilled chicken and a coke. That’s all you want. How can it be so hard for the waiter to understand that? Just once, you’d like to be able to sit down at a restaurant, order whatever you’d like from the menu, and have it brought to you with no questions asked. But most of the time, it’s not that simple. Each item on the menu is a struggle to communicate, and even when you finish ordering, you’re not completely sure you are going to get what you wanted.

Often, the communication breakdown occurs on several levels. It’s loud in the restaurant, some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar, and even when you know the words, the pronunciation just doesn’t make sense.

An accent reduction trainer can work with you, not just on the basics of pronunciation, but also on the specific skills of ordering in a restaurant. You can learn to ask for your favorite foods by name and actually get them. It’s a great feeling to master this aspect of American pronunciation!

5. You just want to fit in and not be asked “Where are you from?”

Moving to the US has been a culture shock on so many levels. Clearly, your way of life is different and you don’t really want to give up everything about your home country and culture. But it would be nice to feel like you are part of a community here and to fit in with those around you. If people would just ask “How was your weekend?” instead of “Where are you from?”, you would know that you were making progress.

The more comfortable you become speaking with an American accent, using American expressions, and even adapting your body language to those around you, the more easily you will fit in. That doesn’t mean you need to give up your heritage, but it might mean that you want to work with an accent reduction trainer to help point out the differences in your pronunciation, vocabulary, and even body language.

Some people come to the US, master the English language and its nuances, and fit right in to American culture. But far more people come with what they thought was a good grasp of the language – until they tried to survive in daily life. And most do survive. But you didn’t come here to survive, did you? You came here to thrive! You came to build a better life for yourself, and you are willing to do what it takes to have that life you know is possible.

If you identified with any of those five reasons, you will most likely benefit from hiring an accent reduction trainer. To see if it would be a good fit for you, take a free accent screening here and get personalized feedback on how you can begin speaking clearer English today.