Small Talk

The language of iPhone

August 24th, 2012

I'm trying to learn another language: iPhone voice command-speak. I have an iPhone, and on it are 1,511 contacts, most from work. (Gosh, that number just SOUNDS crazy.)

Most of what I know about iPhone comes not from a tutorial, or any significant research, but rather, just trial and error in and around my scattered attention span. (I don't have ADHD, but I just have too many things asking for my attention.) Somewhere along the way, I figured out what Voice Command is and how to use it.

It drives me nuts when I ask it to call someone, and it calls another name. I also don't like when it gets the name right, but in the confirmation playback, pronounces the ethnic name in a totally middle-American fashion. Example: the name 'Trancher.' The iPhone Americanizes this French name into 'tran-sher,' when it really should be tron-SHAY.

For the longest time, when I went to dial an ethnic name, I'd think about how someone from Kansas would say it, and then I'd try to pronounce it like that.

I finally spent a little time trying to figure out how to train the iPhone to customize voice recognition. According to, "It can get hung up on hard-to-pronounce names—let’s use Samir Nagheenanajar as an example. To help Voice Control recognize his last name, all you need to do is open the Contacts app, tap on Samir’s name, and tap Edit. Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll see an option to add a field. Tap on this, select Phonetic Last Name, and type in something along the lines of 'Na-ghee-na-na-jar', then tap the done button. For contacts with a difficult first name, you’d use the same steps, but select Phonetic First Name instead."

I tried it, and it worked. But I can't go through 1,500 contacts to customize their names phonetically. So I'm still trying to preemptively think of how the phone would pronounce it before I ask for it to be dialed. Who's training whom?

There are some names that the Voice Command just can't understand, and I'm actually curious to know how to make it speak so I can hear it. That, I don't know how.

Imagine; I'm going through these issues and I have a general American accent borne of a youth spent partially in Connecticut. How does the Voice Command (and Siri, for that matter) respond to those with heavy ethnic accents? Any experiences?

6 Responses to “The language of iPhone”

  1. Ken Conklin:

    Wah choo sane? Hoo, tita. Ae, phone no speeka da Hingalish wit da kine die elect.

  2. Rosette:

    this is why I have no iphone or any phone phone..just house phone..I don't like yapping on the phone!

  3. lowtone123:

    That is the very reasons why I hate voice command.

  4. greenthumb:

    And it is exactly this weird phonetic stuff that kept us from requesting our free credit reports (the government-enabled ones) by phone. On the up side it entertained the audience -- a kid trying not to laugh and a very puzzled dog.

  5. DIO:

    This reminds me of autocorrect. Hilarious things result. Who knew technology could be so humorously useless?

  6. Chicken Grease:

    Yep. Have not heard a single voice command success story. This mention:

    The language of iPhone
    August 24th, 2012
    By Diane Ako

    It drives me nuts when I ask it to call someone, and it calls another name. I also don't like when it gets the name right . . .

    is spot-on. And you (well, at least a Grease does) end up looking like a fool, standing smack in the middle of downtown, elongating annunciations (loudly, of course), such as "call hoh oooom deeee pohhhhhhhhh" ["did you say, 'call home'?"]

    We all have beta versions of it. Period. Come Monday, though? When you can probably see Apple's stock quite actually spear into the actual sky? Apple fans, DEMAND improvements at that time[!]

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