Should conversational interfaces speak in regional dialects?

Conversational interfaces Research


Regional dialects are as good as standard dialects for usability and better emotional intimacy. Mismatched dialects are bad for usability.

What did they do?

They tested 100 Koreans from four different regions, each with its regional dialect. The participants had to say 4 pre-written prompts to 4 different conversational interfaces (CI) that spoke either standard Korean, or one of three regional dialects. After participants interacted with each individual CI, they filled out questionnaires on usability and experience.

What did they find?

Participants mostly felt more intimacy when they used a CI that spoke their dialect. The exception is people from Seoul, where they typically speak a standard form of Korean. Residents of Seoul did not feel more intimacy towards the CI when it spoke standard Korean.

Participants noted better usability for CIs with their dialect and, unsurprisingly, worse usability for CIs with different dialects. However, CIs with standard Korean were rated as usable as CI with the person’s native dialect.

So what?

The value of a regional dialect depends on the purpose of the interaction. If the interaction is straight forward and prioritized usability, a standard dialect is an efficient way to appeal to a larger audience. If the priority is emotional intimacy between the CI and the user, then a regional dialect should be considered. However, the user needs to identify with the regional dialect because a mismatched dialect will decrease the CI’s usability.

Article citation

Jang, S., and J. Lee. “User Experience Research on Intimacy and Usability When an AI Voice-Activated.” (2019). Full article.