SwiftKey Adds 'Arvo' And 'Hot Girls', But Still Sucks At Australian English

I'm a huge fan of SwiftKey's prediction service and ability to learn my typing habits as time goes on; it's one of a few Android apps I absolutely must have. But I'm spittin' the dummy over its latest claim to "understand the Aussie vernacular so well".

SwiftKey employed a team of language experts based in London to supposedly analyse over 14 billion Australian English words to "virtually eliminate autocorrect fails". Why they didn't consult language experts in Australia is beyond me.

Understandably, they started with the UK English keyboard as a foundation and came up with a list of differences between British English and Aussie English:

Barbecues – Australians used the word “barbecue” 30 per cent more than Brits. • Mate – The word “mate” is twice as likely in Aussie English than British English. ‘o’isms - Despite Aussies commonly adding ‘o’ to the end of words and names like “this arvo” and “Steveo”, SwiftKey’s analysis of British English showed 30 per cent more words ended in ‘o’. • Drinking - The English seem more eager to drink heavily than Aussies, where SwiftKey found some of the most likely words to follow “drink” for Brits were: anything, plenty, much, all, alcohol, lots and beer. Aussies on the other hand were more likely to follow “drink” with the words: soon, water, bottle, card, wine, all, alcohol and coffee. • Hotness – Aussies use the phrase “hot girls” much more than Brits. When talking about things that are “hot”, Aussies tend to then write about food, with: dog, chips and cross (bun) being the most likely next-words. The English are more generic, usually saying days, drink and food after hot. “It’s always been a bit of a joke that Brits and Australians don’t quite speak the same language, but our research proves this is actually the case,” said Dr Gasperin.

While it now seems to recognise "mozzie" and "g'day" and "squizz" as words, they didn't come up as a prediction until I had almost typed it in its entirety, at which point the prediction becomes pointless. And what about brekkie, sunnies, chippies, surfies, durry, prezzy, rellies or relos, tracky daks or trackies, she'll be right, Weet Bix, Tim Tams, harden the f**k up, put a shrimp on the barbie, Brisvegas and budgie smugglers? (OK, maybe some of those are just me.) I'm sure there are a lot more you could think of to add to that list too.

Granted, the Australian English module is still in beta and clearly says so when you switch over to it under the app's settings. It has a long way to go before it can claim to be fluent in the Aussie language.

SwiftKey 3 is currently 50 per cent off at $1.99 at Google Play. I still recommend it as the best keyboard for your Android smartphone or tablet, even if it sucks at being Australian.

Have you tried the new Aussie English module yet? Let's make a list of improvements and suggestions to send to SwiftKey.

[SwiftKey via Lifehacker Australia]



    This is one of the things I don't like about smartphones. I could always teach my old stupidphone (pronounced "stoopidfone") new words and it would add them to it's dictionary but smartphones seem to think that we can't teach them anything. Teaching a phone to swear was one of the best parts of getting an new one.

      I use Swype and you can add new words to that.

      But you can teach a smartphone new words!
      Most keyboards automatically add words that you "peck" in.
      You can also add words to your personal Dictionary in the Language and Input section of Settings in Android.

      Last edited 30/11/12 11:29 am

        Not Bada or Windows Phone 7.5. My Lumia800 died on the weekend and I'm back on my Bada powered Wave while it is getting fixed - what a freakin' nightmare! But I've typed "arvo" into my WP7 phone dozens of times and it never remembers it. In other ways it is really good, though, as it learns to prioritise words you use most. These days I can usually just type the first two letters and it will serve up the correct word for me.

    Hey Elly, I’m Joe, SwiftKey’s CMO. Thanks very much for being a fan and noticing our Aussie news! Just wanted to explain a little more about our technology. SwiftKey uses a data-driven approach to predicting words. We create language models out of enormous amounts of data specific to each language. In the case of Australian, this means our computers scoured the Australian internet, analysed Tweets, Facebook posts and emails written by Aussies, and built a big picture of the way Aussies as a whole use English. We filtered this data based on the Aussie English dictionary, and also added a non-exhaustive list of slang terms into it. The truth is that most of the English used by Aussies every day is not slang, and therefore slang terms are unlikely to be default predictions.

    But fear not: as you know, SwiftKey adapts to each and every one of its users over time, so the more you use it, the more it will pick up your individual vernacular. You can also personalise it with your favourite social networks or email provider to speed up this process (@motormouth, take note - you’d like this!). Then after a short while, it just “gets” you. The other quick thing to mention is that if you’ve been using SwiftKey for a while, non-Aussie English may have crept into your learned language profile. It may be worth clearing this in settings before giving our new Australian language model a proper test drive. Oh and finally, I had a quick look and couldn’t find “put a shrimp on the barbie” anywhere in our Aussie data ;-)

      nice to see you comment here joe, Im a big fan of swiftkey. before i found it for my S2 i was missing my N97's full keyboard, but now i am perfectly happy using a touch screen for messaging. Good stuff..
      I have never said 'put another shrimp on the barbie'

    Swift Key DOES learn.... after it went on-line August 4th, 1997. Swift Key begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th

    Last edited 30/11/12 11:56 am

    I think it's a little unfair of lifehacker to expect "prezzies" and "rellies" as "words" as these are just slang for the full word which will probably be predicted anyway (especially over time). Those things are so minor that i've just gotten used to using the full words in text messages and e-mails anyway.

    My biggest gripe with swiftkey is that it always added spaces while typing in URLs and that gets ultra annoying when www.lifehacker.com.au becomes Www. Life hacker. Come. Au and i have to manually go back and change the capitalisation and spaces, turn lifehacker into one word and make "come" com.

    It's really annoying. I hope it can be fixed soon! It's particularly frustrating in text messages where sending your message is usually time critical, but i've resorted to copying/pasting URLs as a sort of workaround - that does add 11 extra unnecessary characters for most URLs though with "http://www."

    Last edited 30/11/12 1:32 pm

    I do love Swiftkey and it does a spooky good job of knowing phrases I want to type. Recently it did take a while to pick up "Bris" (for Brisbane) instead of constantly defaulting to "Bristol".

    I'll have to check out the Aussie update!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now