Thursday, 23 September 2021 22:07

Maaaate: Alexa learns Australia's most unique phrases


Strewth! Having done a vibe check, Alexa speaks 'Strayan at long last, and knows that "Barbie" isn't a plastic doll, at least in the Strayan context, that "Yeah/Nah" is something Aussies really say and can turn on the lights when you ask to flick it on, but still can't flick off the mozzies, or at least, not yet!

If you've ever wanted to tell Alexa to play an absolute banger, or even get Alexa's help to chuck a sickie, which in areas of lockdown means staying in the same home you're already in doing even less than you are probably doing now, then... oi! Alexa may well be the most understanding digital assistant yet.

Yes, Aussie lingo now added to Alexa’s vocabulary, and with Amazon getting a little help from true blue icons Sophie Monk and The Inspired Unemployed, with Sophie Monk celebrated for her famously broad and absolutely unmissable Australian accent.

Amazon conducted a new study which revealed the sense of pride the nation has for our ‘Strayan phrases, with our unique vernacular amongst the top five things that make modern Australians proud to be Aussie (53%), more so than our iconic sporting culture/greats (49%), food culture (48%) and music legends (33%). Not only is our Aussie slang a sense of national pride, a third (32%) say that using uniquely Aussie phrases is an important part of who they are. Bloody oath!

So, to celebrate the great Aussie vernacular, and ensure Alexa can better understand some of Australia’s most unique, popular and need-to-know phrases when customers speak to their Echo devices, Amazon teamed up with the instantly recognisable voices of Sophie Monk and viral comedy duo The Inspired Unemployed

So, just how Aussie has Alexa become?

Well, we're told Alexa now understands over 100 true blue phrases from “flick it on” to switch on the lights, “bucket down” to get a weather check and even “sparrows fart” when you need to set an early morning alarm.

Sophie Monk said, “It’s no secret that I’m a self-confessed bogan, but I honestly love the way us Aussies talk, it’s unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s so funny to me because I was born in the UK, yet I’m such a true blue Aussie.

"I can’t shake it - even living overseas for 10 years didn’t make a difference. People had no idea what I was saying half the time, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It makes me feel at home. That’s why I’m excited to help Alexa understand the Aussie phrases we all love.” 

‘Strayan is its own brand of unique, and that’s what makes it feel like home

Just like Sophie, Amazon tells us "38% of Australians have had to explain classic Aussie terms when abroad, but it's that uniqueness that makes the Aussie turn of phrase an important part of the way we create community. Over half (53%) of those surveyed say hearing Aussie slang makes them feel at home and 41% say they find it endearing when someone uses classic Aussie phrases.

"Our love of Aussie sayings also means they pop up in unexpected situations, particularly for younger generations. A fifth (22%) aged 25-34 use slang in professional documents like essays and presentations and walking down the aisle is even becoming a true-blue event. A sixth (14%) of those aged 25-34 gave their proposal or wedding vows a little Aussie flair."

You are what you speak. Our favourite phrases reflect our famously laidback culture

When it comes to our favourite Australian slang, Amazon informs us "Yeah/nah" (38%) is among the top, followed by "Mozzie," (32%) “Barbie,” (28%), “Give it a crack,” (28%) and “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (21%) - all of which are now understood by Alexa.

Dr. Amanda Laugesen, an expert on the Australian English vocabulary, explains the interesting reason these particular words have won Aussie hearts: "Australian English has so many distinctive features, yet it’s telling that our favourite sayings are things like “Yeah/Nah” and “Give it a crack”.

"Words aren’t just a way of communicating, they’re a form of self-expression and phrases like these, and our tendency to shorten words, reflect the laid-back attitude we pride ourselves on. “Yeah/Nah” is a great example of this; we’re disagreeing but in a way that doesn’t invite conflict. Aussie English definitely has that distinctively relaxed and informal quality, and that’s part of the reason why we all love it so much.”

One for the road; how Aussie English is evolving

While Aussies share a love of classic ‘Strayan phrases, Amazon tells us a yarn when it says "the words we use are shifting and changing across generations, so Amazon has also made sure Alexa understands the latest slang.

"A fifth (21%) of those over 64 years old have had to ask younger family members to explain new slang. So, while Gen Z might have to explain the latest TikTok phrases like “Cheugy,” “Hey Bestie,” or “Vibe check” to their granny, Amazon has made sure Alexa has no problem “understanding the assignment.”

Alexa is becoming even more Aussie

Alexa’s expanded vocabulary doesn’t just celebrate our love of Aussie slang and how it’s changing, but reflects how Aussies already communicate with Alexa. In fact, these new words build on Alexa’s extensive understanding of Australian slang with "footy” "devo,” and “barra” already amongst the most frequent Aussie terms used by Alexa customers. What was that about us shortening words?

Country Manager for Amazon Alexa, Kate Burleigh explains: “Before launching in Australia, our team worked hard to make sure Alexa could understand uniquely Australian phrases, and we know our Aussie customers already love how easy and natural it is to communicate with her.

"Alexa has learnt a lot in the last three years down-under and now, with the help of some iconic Aussies, is getting even smarter. Our research shows just how important the quirks of Aussie English are, and we’re proud of the work we’re doing to make sure that Alexa gets all Aussies, whether they’re 18 or 80.”

So, how can you test out Alexa's Aussiness?

Test out Alexa’s Aussie knowledge for yourself on Alexa-enabled devices like Echo smart speakers, Echo Show smart screens, and Fire TV devices, or via the Alexa app.  

Some new commands you can try include:

  • Alexa, tell me something Aussie
  • Alexa, play an absolute banger
  • Alexa, day for it!
  • Alexa, wake me up at sparrows fart?
  • Alexa, do you like savvy b?
  • Alexa, find a chicken parmi recipe
  • Alexa, is this look cheugy?
  • Alexa, should I chuck a sickie?

You can find out more information on Amazon Alexa and Devices here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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