Google hits a home run in pronouncing Māori place names

By Taroi Black

Google Home has hit a home run in pronouncing te reo place names.

Leah Ormsby, a Google Home responded to our previous article on Te Ao Māori News on Alexa choking its way through the world's longest place name “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu” by putting her own speaker, to the test.

Ormsby filmed herself asking her Google Home device what the world's longest place name is. Surprisingly enough, Google Home trumped its Amazonian competitor at saying the shortened name, but still struggles with the full version.

Leah Ormsby testing her Google Home device. / Source - Leah Ormsby, used with permission.

“Pronunciation is way better though… roll on Google Home NZ edition.”

The US-based tech giant told Te Ao Māori News that its Māori language service relies on Google’s neural machine translation system and states that less-used languages are much more difficult.

Dr Te Taka Keagan, had worked with Google for six months on several of their reo projects including teaching their translate app to understand te reo. Keagan previously advised Te Ao that Google isn't investing financially in correcting its Māori translations. Despite that, their Google Home speakers, pronounce our reo with far greater accuracy than Alexa.

After hearing Google’s voice another user added “Not far off there Aunty Google.”

The world's longest place name. / Source - 100% Pure New Zealand.

A Google spokesperson advised Te Ao that, "Google constantly reviews and makes improvements to pronunciations in all languages, and as newer technologies are released, we’ll continue to see even greater improvement."

The world famous hilltop that bears the name commemorates the life of the Takitimu ancestor Tamateapokaiwhenua. Located near Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay, the hilltop is where Tamateapokaiwhenua went to play his koauau (nose flute) after losing his brother in a nearby battle. Tourists from the world over visit this hill especially in the Raumati.

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