The Institute of Linguistics today launched an interesting new smart phone app which it claims will correct irritating regional dialects.
Director Kandor Lipman told Spoofflé: ‘So, our team has been working on this since 2016, prompted mainly by complaints from Radio 4 listeners that they couldn’t understand what the tidal wave of native Scottish and Irish BBC presenters were actually saying.’ She explained how the app (called ‘iSpeak’) works. ‘So, you tune in to Radio 4 on your phone using the iPlayer and iSpeak intercepts the output and converts around 85% of the mis-pronounced words into your own regional accent and possibly dialect.’
Spoofflé’s Technology Correspondent Dr Crispin Grundwald has been testing a Beta version of the app since June and is impressed. ‘It’s a big problem for people who speak normally, you know, people from southern England, who simply cannot understand what many of these presenters are talking about. For example, I tried iSpeak on the Radio 4 ‘Saturday Live’ programme where one Irish presenter asked a guest: “High many yerrrs have you lived in tyne?” The app correctly detected the Belfast accent and translated this in real time to “How many years have you lived in town?”
The developers claim that iSpeak can also function in any direction, good news for listeners in Belfast, previously unable to follow the gist of middle England staples such as ‘The Archers’ or ‘In Our Time’.
Dr Grundwald says that iSpeak has had only limited success converting normal (i.e: correct) southern England pronunciations into regional Scottish or Irish dialects. ‘Well, it has a good bash at it, but I’m afraid it does try to be rather too clever,’ he said. ‘For example, when a line in a Woman’s Hour play offered the question: “How may I help you?”, iSpeak on ‘Glasgow’ setting returned: “Who you lookin’ at Jimmy, eh?”
Work on Welsh and Geordie versions of iSpeak have so far been abandoned until mobile devices have far greater processing power.