The United States has 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the country today, and another 11.6 million people who are bilingual. Despite that, Amazon’s Alexa — the most popular voice assistant available in the U. S. — almost exclusively speaks English. That’s about to change. Amazon has announced that it will be introducing support for the Spanish language in its Alexa Skills Kit, the software development tool that developers use to create apps and skills for the voice assistant.
Amazon’s rollout for Spanish-language skills will start later this week. Developers will be able to create new skills that use Spanish-language voice commands, which will be reviewed by Amazon to be certified for publication. Once approved, users will be able to download the skills from the Alexa Skills Store. Those skills will be available to users who are enrolled in the Alexa Preview program, who get to see features before the general public. Amazon will add Spanish-language support for Alexa devices in the U.S. later this year.
Amazon is also opening up its Alexa Voice Service program to commercial hardware manufacturers. The program is invitation only, but hardware makers can request access to the developer preview. That will open up the possibility of Spanish-language support for Alexa devices built by Bose, Facebook, and Sony. As “Works with Alexa” devices, products from Philips, TP Link, and Honeywell Home will also get Spanish support.
For developers who already have Alexa apps and skills available, they can update them to include Spanish-language support by adding the necessary information. That includes updating the metadata, app name, description, keywords, icons, and other relevant text that may need to be converted.
Amazon’s decision to add Spanish-language support in the U.S. is a welcome one, but it also shows how far behind the company’s voice assistant is in terms of support. The voice assistant only understands five languages total (English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish) and it has struggled to offer support for those languages in all regions. While Spanish support is coming to the U.S. this year, competitors are already doing it. Google Assistant can speak in three dialects of Spanish, Apple’s Siri offers Spanish-language support, and even Samsung’s oft-forgotten Bixby also has options for the language.