One of the biggest consideration and sometimes limitation of voice assistants is that they are, by nature, intricately tied to the spoken language. While many people do speak English and many of its variants, not everyone does.
And even some of those that do only consider English to be a second and sometimes unnatural language. That is why support for other languages have been slow to roll out and it will only be later this year that Amazon Alexa will be able to start speaking Spanish in the US.
To be clear, Alexa can actually already speak Spanish but due to linguistic, cultural, and technical considerations, it only does so in Spain and Mexico. The US, however, has a large community of Spanish-speaking people, noted to be the second largest in the world. Soon, they will be able to converse with Alexa in their colloquial language of choice as well.
Amazon hasn’t given an exact date but it says that the Spanish for US voice model for Alexa will be landing later this year. That at least gives developers enough time to prepare Alexa Skills that take advantage of the nuances of the language, particularly local word choices and even humor. These will be available for a select few testers in the Alexa Preview program.
The retailer is also calling on hardware manufacturers interested in integrating Alexa for Spanish-speaking customers in the US. It is offering a preview by invitation only but has already named the likes of Sony, Bose, Facebook, Philips, TP-Link, and Honeywell as some major brands already in the program.
Microsoft recently published a paper claiming that Alexa, contrary to expectations, falls behind Siri and Google Assistant in use, particularly in the US. Appealing to a large population of Spanish-speaking citizens could help boost its popularity, though its presence is still pretty much limited to smart speakers that are far outnumbered by iPhones and Android phones.