You are reading the ‘Dutch Australian’ blog, so chances are that you travel a lot by airplane. You will undoubtedly have heard numerous announcements at the airport, telling you where and when to board, informing you about safety regulations and keeping you updated about the delay of your flight. Did you ever wonder who these voices are and where they come from? Let’s find out.
Before automation of the announcements, they were made live, usually by a female speaker behind a microphone. At an international airport such as Amsterdam, you can’t get away with announcements in just Dutch and English, so the announcements were made in other languages as well. This was commonly done by the same person, who did not necessarily have a strong command of these languages. This often resulted in unclear messages and confused travellers.
The beginning of AviaVox
More than 20 years ago, one of the founders of the Dutch company that would later become AviaVox, travelled via Amsterdam Schiphol airport, heard these unclear messages and thought ‘this can be improved!’ This was the start of AviaVox, a company committed to developing voice announcement systems for airports and airlines with which clear and to-the-point announcements can be made in every possible language, without an actual speaker at the site. In the early years, the focus was on Western languages, but now AviaVox covers 30 languages – and counting, with a shifting focus towards the Asian market.
AviaVox is located in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands. Every day, staff are working on grammar rules, developing audio, closing deals with airports, and providing support and maintenance. About 60 language specialists and native speakers work for AviaVox to make sure that grammar and pronunciation are 100% correct. For each language that AviaVox provides, the backbone of the voice solution is a database of grammar rules that drives the composition of announcements from audio fragments, including details such as intonation and timing.
Different accents in English
Now, if you are Australian, you might ask: ‘English? Which English?’ That is a very appropriate question, with all the different accents in English-speaking countries in the world. AviaVox started off with developing British English, which was used by all its airport clients. But as their market expanded beyond Europe, American clients asked for their own accent in English, followed by airports in South Africa, Australia and India.
Melbourne Airport has already used the AviaVox system since 2014, using the British English accent. But Sydney Airport would rather use Australian English announcements within its airport. As AviaVox has a strong focus on the Australian market, it was recently decided to develop announcements in Australian English. An Australian speaker was flown over to the Netherlands to help create the master voice recordings from which the required voice database could be composed. After a full week of recording and many more weeks of audio processing, the Australian voice is now ready for usage in Sydney, and soon it will also replace the British English still used in Melbourne. AviaVox hopes to implement Australian English in more airports in Australia in the near future.
So the next time you travel to or from the airport of Melbourne or Sydney, linger a little longer to listen to the announcements. From the speakers at the gate you will hear beautiful Australian English, developed by a Dutch company. Dutch Australian!
By: Minke Lok