Mancunian or Cockney? British Airways survey finds few can tell the difference

google trends spelling english dictionary
justbrother / Pixabay
If you were asked what dialects Sean Bean, Maggie Smith, Kate Winslet, Tom Hardy, or Daleks speak, and your answer is “British,” you have some homework to do. But don’t feel bad: A British Airways survey found that few Americans can recognize various English accents, and Brits are just as guilty when it comes to American English. (We haven’t even touched on Australians, but we’ll let Qantas conduct that survey.)

Of 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Brits, top findings concluded that, with 23 percent of the vote, Americans found the Glaswegian or Glasgow accent the sexiest of the British Isles, but also the most difficult to understand. In second place with 16 percent of the vote, was Cockney. The most intelligible-sounding accent was Geordie, or Newcastle, while Essex was the least recognizable. As for British celebs, there was no doubt that the most popular British accent among Americans would be Sean Connery’s, bringing in 36 percent of the votes, followed by Hugh Grant and Keira Knightly at 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

On the other hand, among American accents, Morgan Freeman’s ranked highest among Brits, with more than 23 percent of the vote, followed by Dolly Parton with 10 percent and Reese Witherspoon with 6 percent.

When asked to guess the difference between accents, 29 percent of Brits thought the Georgia accent was Texan. The New York accent was correctly identified the most, with 26 percent. Americans mistook the Glaswegian accent for Scouse, and one in four incorrectly identified the Mancunian accent as a Cockney or London accent.

The study also asked Americans and Brits to determine specific locations. Only two in five Americans could find London on a map, and only one in five Brits could identify New York. Americans also thought Bristol was in Northern Ireland, but could successfully point out Liverpool. In identifying specific states, Brits were more successful: 60 percent correctly located both California and Florida and 73 percent located Texas.

Despite speaking the same language, it’s obvious Americans and Brits have trouble recognizing the origins of their dialects (British Airways recommends Americans can take a flight across the pond to brush up on their English – those cheeky Brits). But it isn’t only humans – dialects are also a challenge for voice recognition software, particularly when it comes to deciphering tones. When Apple’s Siri was introduced in 2011, it was reported that it couldn’t understand some Scottish users.

According to a CBC report, broadcast recordings and transcripts are what’s used to train voice recognition systems, so “they can have a bias toward certain accents.”

“It’s not the case that one accent is harder than another,”Marsal Gavaldà, a voice recognition expert at Yik Yak, tells the CBC. “”Accuracy varies widely from speaker to speaker. There are certain segments – children, seniors, or people with an accent – whose recognition rate is very low, or much lower than the rest of the population.”

But companies that utilize voice recognition are working on improving the technology, or at least finding a solution around it. For example, for its Nuance-based Sync system, Ford researchers traveled across the U.S., Europe, and Asia to gather as many accents as possible, in order to develop the computer’s acoustic models for not just English, but also German, Mandarin, French, and Spanish. For travelers, tools like Google Translate could be useful in helping people get around – provided the software can understand the speaker. Gavaldà tells the CBC this is crucial for such systems to be widely accepted by the mainstream.

“If there are certain parts of the population that are not well understood, they will have less access,” Gavaldà says. “They will be less likely to use and benefit from these systems.”

Home Theater

Pandora now lets you mess with the secret sauce for its music playlists

Pandora introduced a new feature called Modes, allowing subscribers to pick between six different algorithms that determine what the popular music streaming service will decide to play.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Mobile

How to use Samsung's Bixby assistant for all of your smartphone tasks

Samsung Bixby is a powerful tool, but not the most intuitive one we've encountered. Here's how to set up and use every feature of Samsung's digital assistant, as well as what to expect in the future.
Social Media

Twitter wants you to help shape the future design of its app

Twitter is launching an app for testing new design features and it wants you to get involved. Those accepted into the program will have the chance to try out different conversation designs aimed at improving the user experience.
Emerging Tech

Professional drone racing is flying onto Twitter this summer

Professional drone racing is coming to Twitter for the first time this summer. Organizers hope the streaming deal with the social media platform will help the growing sport to further broaden its audience.
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Yep, it’s not just you. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are down for many

Facebook's family of apps has been suffering issues for much of the day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself have been out of action for users around the world, with the company scrambling to sort it out.
Social Media

Facebook may soon let you watch live TV with friends in Watch Party

Facebook Watch Party is designed to allow friends to watch together, even when they can't be in the same physical space. Now, that feature could be expanding to include live TV. Facebook announced a test of the feature, starting with live…
Social Media

Federal investigation digs into Facebook’s data-sharing deals

Facebook confirmed it is cooperating with a federal criminal investigation. According to a report, the company is under investigation for sharing user data with smartphone and tablet companies.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.
Gaming

Snapchat could soon let you play games in between your selfies

If a new report is accurate, Snapchat will be getting an integrated gaming platform in April. The platform will feature mobile games form third-party developers, and one publisher is already signed on.
Social Media

Twitter is testing a handy subscription feature for following threads

Twitter has recently started testing a feature that lets you subscribe to a thread so that you’ll no longer need to like a comment or post to it yourself in order to receive notifications of new contributions.