Amazon Lex can now speak British English... or simply 'English' if you're British

Alexa-derived chatbot tech allegedly understands 'the British accent', but fails to recognise that there are many


It's only taken three years, but the conversational interface tech underlying Amazon's Alexa assistant is now capable of the world's lingua franca in its purest form – "British English".

If "color" sets your teeth on edge and "organization" makes your eye twitch, you're in for a wild ride with our San Francisco office's work*, but otherwise it is heartening to see that Bezos' behemoth has at last paid heed to the North Sea island's linguistic idiosyncracies.

Amazon Lex was first shared with developers in 2017, and the cloud giant recommends using it to build services like interactive voice response systems and self-service chatbots for a variety of platforms and apps (as long as you're an AWS customer, of course).

The Brits are notoriously defensive of their version of English, which they believe to be the original, so now your Lex-built chatbot will be able to reinsert those absent Us and replace wayward Zs with a reassuring S – and that must mean happy users in Blighty.

We presume so, anyway, because the documentation only says it supports English (British), English (US), and English (Australian), offering little more by way of information. Better to have a play yourself.

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Amazon said: "With British English, you can deliver a robust and localized ['scuse me?] conversational experience that accurately understands the British accent. Amazon Lex also provides pre-defined slots that are localized [ahem] to capture information such as common names and cities found in England."

"Accurately understands the British accent" is an interesting claim seeing that, as previously reported, virtual assistants struggle to comprehend more than 23 per cent of regional quirks across the UK, according to a study by comparison website Uswitch.

The tech giant claims to be working on recognising a diverse range of British dialects – but we wonder which specific one "British English" will deliver. Maybe it's safer sticking to text for now.

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Aside from pandering to what Amazon would deem a minuscule sliver of its user base, there's an argument to be made that British English should just die already.

That most English English of institutions, the Oxford University Press, favours -ize over -ise as it would rather reflect the Greek roots of some words, unless it ends in -yze, in which case it would be -yse. Got it?

Before there was even such a thing as "British English", "realize" was being used as far back as 1611, and "organized" in 1425. To paraphrase BBC America: The US didn't so much mess with the language, but the Brits tried to codify English and ended up changing it more.

And when modern English is a wobbly tower built on Anglo-Frisian, Danish, Norse, French, Latin, and Greek, who really cares how it's spelt? Or should that be spelled? ®

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*Only joking, they're great.


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