This is how I get Google Assistant to understand unpronounceable place names


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dated: 2022-11-20 13:17:37 .

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

If you live outside the US, you’ve probably encountered this problem more than once with Google Assistant and smart speakers: Voice recognition to understand a very local person or the name of a city is a frustrating exercise. You try to say it natively, then you try to guess how an English-speaking AI machine would say it, and then you end up cursing and deciding to type the question on your phone or computer instead of wasting more time on voice commands.

I know this happens to me every week, if not every day. When I lived in Lebanon, my biggest problem was checking the weather forecast in the two cities I visited often. The first is called Ballouneh and is pronounced Balloon’eh, while the second is Qlayaat and… Well… Let’s just say it can be spelled dozens of ways, from Qleiat to Koleyat, and you don’t want to know how to pronounce it. Assistant was never good at recognizing both, no matter how I pronounced it.

I often had trouble getting the assistant to understand me when I said two names of Lebanese cities.

At one point it occurred to me that I could do something similar to what I did for my family members with Arabic names and somehow learn the Google abbreviation. I don’t say “Call Ibrahim El Khoury”, but “Call Dad”, so it makes sense that I might just say “What’s the weather like in the mountains” instead of trying – and failing – to Qlayaat articulate any machine- friendly fashion.

Since Google Assistant doesn’t support location shortcuts other than home and work, I set out to create my own shortcuts through Assistant routines.

If you don’t know how this works, you’ll need to go into your Google Assistant settings (either through the main Google app or the Google Home app), then tap Routines > New > Personal gold household (depending on whether you want other household members to use this shortcut as well). Then, Add Launcher > When I tell Google Assistant and type “What’s the weather like in the mountains” and tap it plugin launcher. And finally Add action > Try adding your own and enter “What’s the weather like in Qlayaat Lebanon” and tap Done.

Routines act like abbreviations, so you can replace any troublesome place names with simpler words like city, mountain, or lake.

Of course, you can change the keywords here, from mountain to beach to ice to sea (or use any other phrase you prefer) and put any place you visit often in the action component. The trick is to write it in a way that Google search will recognize it.

Now I just need to ask the assistant, “What’s the weather like in the mountains?” and tell me what the weather is like in Qlayaat. “On the mountain” definitely rolls better and the risk that the assistant will not understand it is super, super small. I even tried the trick with Llanfairpwllgwyngyll in Wales and Qeqertarsuatsiaat in Greenland and it worked in both.

I personally use this routine trick to update the weather in certain Lebanese cities, but you can also try it for directions or finding restaurants in cities with unpronounceable names.

Routines can also serve as shortcuts for other questions that you may have trouble pronouncing or that the Assistant may not understand. The only problem is that you have to create a new routine for each of these shortcuts – a tedious and time-consuming process. On the other hand, though, Google already understands “home” and “work,” so there’s probably little chance you’ll be frequently asking about other cities with unpronounceable names.

Do you use routines to help Google Assistant understand you better and faster?

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This is how I get Google Assistant to understand unpronounceable place names

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