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Siri, Can You Speak Spanglish?

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If you have an iPhone, chances are you have had a conversation with Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant notorious for her dry humor. Siri can give cross-country directions or look up the latest stock market information, but she falls short when it comes to hearing out her bilingual users.

“ . . .[Bilingual speakers] don’t only use English, we throw lots of Spanish words and phrases in regularly, and sometimes a conversation thread will only be in Spanish. Sometimes that thread will have English words in it. It’s Spanglish,” reads an article from Reach Hispanic, a Hispanic and Latin American marketing company.

A personal example from the author showed how the English version of Siri interpreted a sentence containing two different languages into a string of nonsense words.

“What I said: thanks again, besos y abrazos
What Siri heard: Thanks again, besos yeah but I sauce”

Siri is “not even close to being bilingual” the article goes on to say.  Users are able to change their iPhone settings to Spanish from Mexico, Spain and the U.S., but Siri typically cannot translate “Spanglish”.

Since there is currently no voice command to toggle between languages, users who need Siri to interpret more than one language will have to manually change their language settings.

According to Apple.com, “Siri is designed to recognize the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries . . .Since every language has its own accents and dialects, the accuracy rate will be higher for native speakers.”

Photo (c) GONZALO BAEZA

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