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Is Your English Accent British or American? (cambridgeconsultants.com)
126 points by xbmcuser on Jan 14, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments

It's hard to tell if the speech recognition is working, or even if the microphone is on. If I hum the star spangled banner, it rates me as 79% British.

I said the sentence in Spanish and it gave me 62% British. I tried Portuguese, and it gave me 55% British.

Reminds me of the analogy games described by Hofstader in one of his books.

Like "New Zealand is the Scotland of Australia". If i remember correctly, the idea was to take two pairs of countries and construct an analogous mapping between them.

So Spain::Portugal -> UK::USA in this case.

There should be a third mapping there---"neither". I got 99% British with my normal (more or less foreign-accent-free) speach and a whooping 88% British with the heaviest Polish accent I could produce.

The NN (I guess) checks the accent, so it doesn't care about the content of the words. One could speak Spanish in a more or less British accent.

Yes, it would break your words into phonetics, and analyzes whether it's "american" or "british" phonetics which occur more frequently in the dialog. Unless well practiced, your phonetics likely cary over into other languages that you speak.

If it's machine learning-based it probably just doesn't know how to handle weird invalid input like that.`

“Weird invalid input” is an interesting description. That’s the reason I don’t use the voice features on my phone. I have to spend too much time tailoring my input for its expectations rather than Speaking as I normally do, and having it know how to interpret better.

Getting any use out of voice recognition personal assistants is a learned skill (just like effective googling or using the command line) but pretty handy once you get it figured out.

I'd be interested to see a voice-controlled personal assistant with a specific machine-friendly syntax you have to learn instead of it trying to deal with natural language. In exchange for me learning the syntax I'd probably have a much better user experience than fumbling through variations of English.

I find the set of commands I want is usually limited enough that it's not a big deal to learn the expected phrasing.

Well however you want to phrase it it's a common problem. I remember reading about an AI that played Super Smash Brothers and it was really good, but it would start to go haywire if you just ran to the edge of the stage and stood there.

I'm from Britain and it rated my accent as 99-100% British the few times that I tried it. So not bad from my point of view.

Meanwhile, I wonder what Cambridge Consultants are going to do with a dataset of thousands of Hacker News users reading out the sentence "Please call Stella and ask her to meet Bob the frog at the store with three small red plastic bags".

"My voice is my passport, verify me."

*password I believe. Upvoted.

No, "passport". It was clearly a reference to the voice authentication hack in _Sneakers_.

Indeed. They took a bunch of smaller words and spliced them together to fake his voice print. Cambridge Consultants are clearly harvesting our voice prints for the CIA. ;)

We have something very similar in the UK tax service (HMRC) which is "password".

Probably just make refinements to the model they're using to classify samples.

The sentence is obviously taken (with some modifications) from the sample used by the speech accent archive ( http://accent.gmu.edu/howto.php ), which was constructed specifically to include every relevant phonological context in American English. (Not that this was necessarily achieved, but it was the goal.)

Leave them on random people's voicemail, probably.

I'm American and I get mixed results between 89% American and 53% British on my normal accent. My pronunciation of "call" and "to" seems to tip the scales towards British and most of my other words are not strongly highlighted.

I can reliably fake a British accent although I seem to get stuck on frog and store still sounding American. When I do the stereotypical Texas style "yee haw" accent I get 99% American.

It's actually a famous sample; I remember seeing it in linguistics classes. It just happens to contain a lot of words that reveal differences between English dialects.

I am too and only got 65% British.

I have two accents: the "Finnish Rally Driver" (55-45) and "Monty Python" (7-93). I was ashamed of my regular Rally-Driver until Dame July Dench said "What a delightful accent, are you from Hungary?".

I have so many questions for you right now.

- what does Finnish rally driver sound like - how did you meet Dame Judy Dench - where are you actually from?

It's pretty funny how language roots show. Finnish and Hungarian are the same family of languages and apparently Dame Judy picked up on it!

- what does Finnish rally driver sound like: https://youtu.be/fZfxJ7BST8E

- how did you meet Dame Judy Dench: At Heathrow Tesco. All Britons look the same, but she was quite "posh". Dame of that age and looks, but did not confirm the exact identity.

- where are you actually from? Finland, github.com/timonoko

Torilla tavataan!!

Like Ari Vatanen?

Born in Washington DC and that is the southernmost point of my childhood. Father born in England to Eastern European immigrants. Mother is Italian American from Pennsylvania. West coasters semi-frequently think my accent is European, but nobody from back east or from Europe says that.

I got 84% British.

My wife was born in Russia and spent most of her life on the US west coast. She got 91% American.

Fun little app but given my results and some comments here I see it as a west coast accent detector.

> Born in Washington DC and that is the southernmost point of my childhood. Father born in England to Eastern European immigrants. Mother is Italian American from Pennsylvania. West coasters semi-frequently think my accent is European, but nobody from back east or from Europe says that. I got 84% British.

That's really interesting. I have a very similar background (and from Washington DC) and I got 84% British, too. It rated my pronunciation of the word "call" as ~100% British. That's pretty interesting if it can regionally categorize people.

I suspect that is because a typical mid west or west coast accent has a moving pitch with the word "call", typically down then up within the one syllable. The usual British accent has a monotone or a slight drop in pitch for the word "call".

I grew up in Connecticut and it finds my pronunciation of "call" and "to" British, but still manages to find the right answer overall. For another datapoint, I guess.

A Kiwi accent would almost certainly result in a server explosion.

No obvious explosions, but it doesn't know what to make of it. First submission: 18% American, 82% British, second submission: 68% American, 32% British.

I tried putting on American and British accents and could easily get it over 90% either direction, so at least it's working for those.

Mine gets relatively consistently British. Wonder if it’s regional accents in any way?

This could be very useful for English language learners if it told you the pronunciation mistakes that you make.

As it is now, it's a little disappointing. I got 98% British but I have no idea why it came to this conclusion. It could be that my British accent is good, or that my accent is rubbish but doesn't sound American, or anything else really.

It tells you which words you said it considers british and which it considered american by their red / blue colour.

It is also a binary choice. Like the hotdog/not hotdog app, you can't expect an AI to tell you much if it only has two options to chose from.

I got 97% British, which is reasonable as I am British. However, I then tried a couple of time putting on an atrociously bad faux Australian nasal twang, and it still rated me 97% and 84% British - so I'm not so sure on it's accuracy... or maybe it can tell a British person putting on a rubbish foreign accent :-)

Saying nothing qualifies for British. Legit.

English is British by default, that's just geography.

My nothing was American (just).

This is kind of fun for practicing accents. Even with my "best" attempt at a British accent I never got below 80% American.

Would be cool to see if it had any data for identifying some more specific American accents though.

I'm American and it put me at 66% British...

Edit: and now 99% British every time. Methinks the site is broken.

I'm also an American and get consistently 80-90% British. It seems to think I pronounce "Bob" in an especially British way. I pronounce it in a way that sounds like "Bahb" to me, same sound as in not and cot (I don't have the cot-caught merger). I believe it's the vowel <ä> in IPA that I use. To my ears that's not the way most UK speakers would pronounce it, which I think is more <ɔ> or <ɒ> for all of Bob/not/cot.

I was able to get 90% in either direction at will.

American: over-pronounce your Rs and try to get the æ sound wherever "ah" is called for. (I guess this is a great lakes accent)

British: imitate the intonation of BBC broadcasts I occasionally hear syndicated on npr stations.

Heh. In my regular accent (American) I got 90% American (although, I got 99% American when I spoke normally and didn't purposefully enunciate). But my God-awful British accent got 98% British.

It picked up on the parts of the generic British accent (London accent?) that us Americans think about and exaggerate when mimicking a British accent—tall vowels, especially the "O"s and "A"s.

My normal accent is British but I affected a crappy American accent and got 98% first try. I think this will classify you as American if you just put in rhotic Rs and ham up the vowel sounds.

Here's the trick - the "r" is not as important as that ghastly "o" sound that becomes like an "aaaaaaaa" in General 'Murrican.

When I said, "bleep da doop de blah bleep nah," this classified me as 80% American.

Then, I clapped my hands twice (and didn't speak), which classified me as 72% British.

As a final test, I did both at the same time: 90% American.

Sound legit. Noisy: American. Subtle and understated: British

Hmmm. Some statements, by their existence, contradict themselves.

I noticed the URL, and stayed away. They want my data for stats, profiling, or building an automated Henry Higgins, they can contact me and quote a price.

Not a native speaker (raised on Danish), but lived for a while in Australia, and also spent a lot of time in the UK. And it shows. The British invariably take me for an antipodean, the Aussies usually for a Pommie bastard, and then every once in a while for a Kiwi. Nobody ever thought me North American.

Cambridge Consultants is a /very/ different firm to Cambridge Analytica, if that's what you were thinking? It's a well regarded contract engineering consultancy rather than a data analysis company.

Letting my general paranoia overrule my inclination, I assumed some sort of connection. A [very] quick looup didn't disabuse me of that assumption. I probably stand corrected.

Mind you, I am always sceptical of these 'tests' all over the web. Somebody clearly is after my info for free.

This is really hit-or-miss. My initial test gave me a 93% British (rather accurate considering I'm from a former British colony), but subsequently the results varied a lot, including a few cases where it claimed my accent is 74% American.

The way I pronounce "ask", "plastic" and "Bob" should be dead giveaways that my accent is not American...

I've lived in London my entire life and the result flips between very American (~80%) or slightly British.

I pronounce "ask" with a long "a" so I'm not sure why it keeps flagging that pronunciation as American either.

This may well not be the answer but some of the accents you'll hear around Boston do use the vowel from "father" to pronounce "ask."

I'm from neither the US nor Britain and I got 90% British (I don't hear any British in the way I speak though).

Side question. I’ve been always wondering: how has the American accent evolved? Where does it come from? Is there any region in Britain that sounds American? Or did just evolve independently as a mix of British and something else?

And: since when is it that different? Did Lincoln had an American accent?!

They began to evolve separately as soon as the Mayflower arrived. And American accents have been influenced not only by a broad variety of English immigrants over time by also by immigrants from other parts of the world.

For instance, the "standard" (TV broadcaster) accent originated in areas settled largely by German and Scandinavian immigrants. The "New York" and "New Jersey" accents have elements of Irish and Italian and Yiddish accents, and New York accents were influential due to being common among entertainers through the middle of the 20th century.

And accents can evolve quickly. The New York accent you'll hear in films from the 1950s is very different from the one you'll hear today if you go deep enough into Queens to find strong accents.

That said, IMO moderate Scottish accents sound extremely similar to the "standard" American accent. I think it's actually that the cadences are very similar, which for me at least is what makes other strong British accents (other than RP) often difficult to understand.

There's not really any such thing as an "American accent" or a "British accent," particularly when you're looking at the evolution of accents. Accents tend to evolve based on regional tendencies; what people refer to as "General American" (effectively the Midwestern US, but not including the Northern Cities Vowel Shift) and "Received Pronunciation" are accents that lack any recognized regionalism markers, such as the Southern drawl or the New England non-rhoticism.

Accents tend to shift based on contact with other linguistic groups and mixing from different accents that levels out pronunciation. You'll note, for example, that Canadian has more in common with the US accents than it does with British accents. I don't know the historical development of accents very well, but some US accents (I believe the southern one in particular) are closer to 16th and 17th century English than modern British accents. This isn't necessarily atypical--modern Icelandic is the closest in pronunciation to Old Norse, while modern Norwegian is closer in pronunciation to older varieties of Danish. Small, isolated communities are going to be able to better preserve pronunciation in a dialect.

As for a 'British' accent, there is huge diversity within the UK. Cornish, Northern Irish, Yorkshire, Aberdonian, etc.

It used to be even more pronounced, with neighbouring villages in England having distinct accents. Nowadays, i suspect that the differences are disappearing - although perhaps some will always remain.

It's somewhat the contrary if I remember correctly. It's the British accent that changed after the split.

How did Received Pronunciation catch on? It seems that Britain is chock-full of different accents, especially from the north, but all the English ones sort of contain elements of RP, like the unpronounced R's (Irish and Scottish don't.)

The split came about through formalised education. The British you hear today is upper middle class, noble English.

Similar happened in France and French Quebec. Modern French is formalised Parisian french. While Canadian French is country French, according to a very posh friend, the most educated quebecois still sounds like a country hick the first time he hears them.

> Similar happened in France and French Quebec. Modern French is formalized Parisian french. While Canadian French is country French, according to a very posh friend, the most educated québécois still sounds like a country hick the first time he hears them.

You got it backward. Modern French is bourgeois Parisian French. It was standardized more than a century after the French revolution (in the 1880's when public education became mandatory).

When Québec was colonized in the 1600's, only a handful of territories in France spoke French, mostly around Paris. This was the language of the court, the nobility and a minority of peasants. The rest of the country spoke various languages, such as Caló, Catalan, Corsican, Franco-Provençal, Ligurian, Occitan, Flemish, Luxembourgish, Alsatian, Breton, and Basque [1]. Furthermore, Parisian French was only one of the d'Oïl languages spoken at the time [2].

The colonists that settled and explored Québec were mostly from northern France, the region where an Oïl language was spoken. The language spoken in the colony was standardized to match the one of the royal administration (Parisian French).

Due to not being a French Territory when the revolution happened, Québec kept a fork of Royal French. Reading written french from the 1600's and 1700's out loud is striking, as it's almost identical the pronunciation of modern Québécois French. An example of this is the term "Moi", spelled Moé in the 1700's and pronounced Mo-a (Moi) by modern continental French and Mo-Hey (Moé) in Québécois French.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_policy_in_France#Mino...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langues_d%27o%C3%AFl

I find that far fetched. It's much more likely that accents in the two countries evolved from what came before, without either staying the same.

Furthermore, there isn't such a thing as a single "British" accent, there are a huge range of accents in Britain, just like there are a huge range of accents in the US.

The Welsh sound eerily similar to the southern American twang. Except for colloquial words you wouldn’t think it was out of place if you heard them in Kentucky.

LMAO. I am British and I managed to fool this by doing an American accent. Well more concisely, by sounding like a Texan. Or at least thats what I think it is.. very fun!


I’m American but I scored 83% British with a crappy Cockney accent ;)

I am from Kiev, Ukraine, initially studied English at classic Soviet school with explicit orientation to British style. Nevertheless, it suggests 93% American. Initially I guessed this is due to r-coloring, but words like "plastic bags" have no R ;)

I'd be interested to see if any broad scousers, Geordies or weegies have tried this.

I am from Liverpool and got 98% British using my normal accent

I am from the Boston area (without a Boston accent) and I rated 90% US. My teen daughter who is also from this area and to me sounds like she has an even "flatter" American accent rated 64% US, with the words "call" and "small" flagged as moderately British. My teen son (who sounds identical to her) was 95% U.S.

I lived in London when I was younger and can imitate some local accents; my "upper crust" accent was rated about 65% U.S. on the first try and 86% British on the second. My "Norf London" was 50/50 on the first try, 65% U.S. on the second.

I doubt it's that nuanced actually. My best RP gives 99% although all my British friends would classify that as 'evil nazi overlord' owing to my Swedish accent.

Haha, that was fun. First time around I was 55% American. Then 49% American. Then I did my best British accent (49% American, guess I can't ever become a spy in Britain) and my best American accent (88%, hah!).

I'm English as a second language, continental western-europe.

edit: tried British accent one more time and thought about it for a sec before doing it, changed the call and ask to do a British 'a' and got 99% British. It seems I'm destined for a life of spying after all!

This seems like it'd be hard to do reliably - if I recall, there were significant variations in the regional makeup of the various thirteen colonies to start with, and some of those linguistic peculiarities have outlived their originators, besides England having it's own subdialects and variations over time too.

Get a Mainer, a New Yorker, a Virginian, and a Georgian together, and they're hardly mutually intelligble, and that's just on the east coast.

Other than some slang, I wouldn't call any of these accents mutually unintelligible.

Yeah, I can't think of any American accent that I just altogether can't understand.

My wife, who is not a native speaker of English, initially had trouble understanding AAVE and people with heavy Latin American accents when she moved to the US, for what it's worth, so maybe we could consider those particularly challenging, but I doubt any native-born American would struggle with those really.

Swede here, got 92% Brittish, i'm happy with the results. The English education back in school has apparently won over my media consumption :p.

My awful french accent rated me as 98% british accent.

My awful Estonian accent rated me 99% british.

98% British but it only highlighted "the" and "Bob" each time. I guess the rest of the words were unknown.

My accent would be Swedish.

Things like this are fun as a New Englander who doesn't have the "pahk the cah" accent of Boston. Our vowels are flat, and mine get flatter when I'm drinking--when I visited Ireland with my family the landlady at a little bed-and-breakfast took me aside and inquired if I had been educated in England. Nope--I just don't say "baaaaaaaag".

It's funny that my south indian accent was 90% match to American and my "normal" Indian accent was split 50-50.

I'm Swedish, learned British English in school but basically all tv shows here are American, my English- speaking friends are all either American or Canadian but at work we have a lot of British people. This rated me as 98-99% American.

I'm from Britain but I've lived in a non-English speaking country for 7 years so my accent seems to have tended towards American English. I got 90% British.

Also, this is measuring my "reading accent" which is much more British than my normal speaking voice.

I'm Irish. Was curious to see how it would interpret my accent.

41% US, 59% British -- did a few times an the ratios reversed.

Doing impressions of British or American people got me close to 100% of their respective values. I'd say there is some merit there alright.

Californian who has lived in Dublin for 5 years. 82% American, though attempting a south Dublin accent gave me 52/48.

Haha I am Irish too, 94% British, 6% American...can I ask where you're from? I am from Dublin.

I would have a midlands accent (and a US mother).

I’m 100% American from the mid-Atlantic region. Rated my accent 53% American and 47% UK. I tried on my best south London accent, which is fairly cartoony, and got a 60% UK.

Edit: just tried my best Southern accent (kinda Georgia) and rated 72% American.

Wanted to try it but got an error:


Sorry, your browser doesn't support audio recording, which is required by our site.

Why not try again using Chrome, Firefox, or Edge?

Note that iOS only supports in-browser audio from iOS 11 onwards.


This is in Chrome on iOS 11.2.2 with microphone access enabled.

Use Safari.

My French accent gave me random results, going from 80% British to 80% American.

I got 62% British, which doesn't entirely surprise me. I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and people I talk with often say I have a Canadian accent. Apparently this is quite common for Oregonians.

Born in London and lived there til I was 3 but I’m American and it rated me once as 53% American and another time as 37% American. I know I say a few words differently but not that differently.

I'm American. I read it in what I think is my normal voice, and it came out 93% British.

Ok, maybe I enunciated and pronounced my 't' sounds out of self-consciousness. Still.

I retried and got 90% American.

I'm from St. Louis and it guessed 65% American. I then tried a fake British accent and it thought I was 63% British. I guess I need to work on my British accent.

Lived my whole life in the States, classified as 84% British. Maybe some aspects of the Israeli undertones from my family, but more likely just a bad model.

When I speak with my normal NY Northeastern accent it tells me British 80%.

When I speak with a poorly done, make-believe Southern accent it tells me American 90%.

How? I tried it in my best city accent, my native suburban accent, and my best Rochester accent, and got >95% American each time.

Depending where in northeast New York one is, one can end up with something close to the Northwest New England accent (which shares a lot more with an English accent than most of America).

I'm South American, but I lived in Cambridge in the 80's (when I was still in primary school). I got 92% and 99% British.

Thought I sounded 65% American, told it I was British and not to use me for retraining, then tried again and was 90% British...

Born and bred in Dublin, Ireland. I've worked with Americans too long, and am often mistaken for American.

This thing put me at 94% American ;)

It's quite poor. Two attempts as a non-english speaker in my normal voice, and 70% british first, then 70% american.

This isn't very accurate. I'm Canadian (I sound American) but this thing is claiming my accent is 80% British.

Even though I grew up in a Commonwealth country, it says I've got 85% British accent which is totally not correct

Huh? Why would you expect your accent to be more American if you grew up in a Commonwealth county?

Let's just say that I'm used to pronouncing words the American way

How are people saying "Plastic"?

93% British, and when I let my Dutch accent shine through more, it goes up to 98% British.

Lived in England and Scotland for 31 years, lived in Australia for 6 years.

67% American 33% British

Have you seen the voice controlled elevator sketch on Burnistoun? Give the poor algorithm a break! ;)

My New England accent got me 50/50. I guess that makes sense?

Maybe this thing classifies all non-American accents as British.

Born in India -> living in the U.S for 10+yrs. Got 89% U.S.

Sang Polish national anthem and got 72% American.

Apparently my british accent is fail

99% accurate for me!

I was insulted that it rated my Aussie lingo as "British".

:-) I must say though, that for a non-native English speaker, Aussie sounds indeed much more British than American.

To this Canadian as well!

I'm American and to me, Aussie sounds Aussie, not at all British. I reckon I'd be insulted too.

But I bet Aussie doesn't sound American either. It's a binary classification, it will give spurios results if you feed it with input outside its domain.

Nonsense. Aussie sounds a lot like a lot of estuary accents, especially if they try to "posh" it up.

I was rated as 71% US ;) I wonder if the various accents of Australia rate differently or whether I'm influenced too much by foreign media.

My Kiwi accent is 96% British. Is that more of less British and an Aussie accent?

Are you from Melbourne or Adelaide?

I got 50/50

Crap ui.

58% 'Murrican 42% British. So, like Irish?

I got 70% British for an Irish accent.

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