Getting Siri to pronounce a complex or odd-sounding name can be a challenge. Why? Because Siri’s method of determining how to pronounce proper nouns depends on your device’s system language. In the US and other English-speaking regions, Siri pronunciation is governed by English phonetic rules. When confronted with a name, say Italian-origin like Vito Corleone or Chinese-origin like Xiaoyan Zhou, Siri probably needs help getting the spoken pronunciation just right.
I recently learned that there is a way to get Siri to accurately pronounce every syllable in every name in your contacts list, but you have to type the instructions instead of telling Siri how to do it.
Siri’s education begins in the Contacts app on the iPhone or iPad. Choose the appropriate name to correct a wrong Siri pronunciation. In that pane, tap the Edit button in the top right corner of the screen. That opens a new window that you then tap on Add field line. There you find Pronunciation And Phonetic help with first, middle and last name. To teach Siri, choose the Phonetic name you want to correct (or all three names, if Siri seriously mutilates a nickname). You can even tell Siri that it mispronounced a name, and it will take you to the pronunciation page.
For example, to test my Vito Corleone I chose the Phonetic surname and used the field to type the pronunciation as accurately as possible and then tapped Finished. It took a few tries, but I finally got Siri to say The Godfather’s name correctly, instead of “Cor-leon” (three syllables instead of four) or “Corleon-a” (four syllables but the wrong vowel at the end) to say ).
Don’t be afraid to enter different variations until Siri gets it right. Test the result by asking Siri for information about that person, forcing Siri to repeat the name. You can even tell Siri it mispronounced a name, and it will prompt you to add a phonetic description in Contacts.
What is the difference between phonetic and pronunciation hints? Not much in terms of service. To elect Phonetic is preferred because it automatically puts the name in the correct alphabetical sort order.
Today I Learned is a Macworld column that highlights lesser-known but useful tips and tricks for Apple users. If you have ideas for future columns, please email [email protected].