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Siri No Habla Español: PR Disaster Or Just A Work In Progress?

Submitted by on November 3, 2011 – 3:09 pm2 Comments
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Apple‘s voice-activated personal assistant Siri has become quite the celebrity, but critics have noted that mainly only American English-speakers are invited to the party.

PC Magazine‘s Jill Duffy says she was “shocked” to find that the iPhone 4S feature did not support Spanish, which she notes is the native language of 35 million Americans.

Duffy fully acknowledges that the software is still in the beta development stages but says that “to come out of the gate with a mass-market speech tool for the United States that disregards 12 percent of the target market is kind of ridiculous.”

Siri is instead programmed to understand French and German, and English dialects from the U.K. and Australia. (1.6 million Americans speak French at home, and 1.4 million speak German.)

However, some major features, such as locating local businesses or getting directions, work only in the U.S., and only with American English.

Even some English speakers are having trouble with the new technology. Several UK news outlets have reported that Siri is unable to understand heavy Scottish accents. One poor Scottish iPhone user posted a YouTube video of himself trying to get Siri to “create a reminder.” The closest Siri finally gets is “create our remainder.”

Some outside developers are seeking to fill this gap in service. A local carrier in Singapore has debuted its own voice-recognition software for iPhone and Android, which it says will recognize “Singlish,” combinations of English and local languages.

Apple isn’t the only company with Spanish problems. Nokia‘s recently debuted Lumia has been the butt of many jokes lately; its name means “prostitute” in Spanish slang.

What do you think? Is Siri’s lack of Spanish a big problem, or will it all work out in the next upgrade?

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