Voices that give life to artificially intelligent virtual assistants are derived from real human voices (Siri) or by machine learning (Alexa). So, can you change Alexa’s voice? Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, can help users do many things through the Echo, Dot, and a host of other physical devices. She can play music, set reminders, order pizza, and shop. She can’t, however, understand many languages and you can’t change her voice to anything other than a couple options.
Change Alexa’s Voice to British or German
Siri is one of the original voice commanded virtual assistants. Although she could only speak English initially, she now recognizes and speaks 21 languages, including Danish, Japanese, Portuguese, and Thai. Being multi-lingual, she can assist users in many countries across the world. Alex, on the other hand, is still very new, and only speaks and recognizes two languages: English (American or UK) and German. Alexa cannot understand any other languages yet and she does not respond back in other languages. Being only bilingual, Amazon is severely limiting its reach to users.
To change what language Alexa speaks and understands, users need to go to settings in the app. From there, there is a language menu where users can choose being English (American or UK) or Deutsch (German). Some users in the US have reported switching to UK English because Alexa seems to have a kinder voice and is slightly easier to understand.
Amazon Alexa Translation
Although Alexa is not fluent in many languages, she can still translate sentences into different languages. Alexa is equipped with skills, which are essentially apps that are used to teach Alexa different things. This allows Alexa to expand her services and allows third-party developers to assist users in tasks like placing a Domino’s pizza order or playing Jeopardy. Some of these skills have been developed to allow Alexa to translate material into languages other than English and German. The most popular translation skill is simply called “Translated”. To translate from English (not available to translate from German) into one of 36 languages, just tell Alexa, “Alexa, ask Translated how do you say hello in French.” Unfortunately, some reviewers have noted that Alexa doesn’t always correctly translate the information or translate at all. To be fair, asking Google Translate to translate a page or phrase is often met with disappointment. The skill also does not allow for back translation, so users must speak to Alexa in English.
The Future of Alexa’s Voice
Like most big tech companies, Amazon is rather private about their plans for the future of their products. Although nothing has been publicly stated, it makes sense that Amazon would push Alexa to users in other countries. To do this, of course, Alexa will need to understand other languages as well as speak them fluently. Creating a version of Alexa that understands, for instance, Japanese, also means third-party developers of skills for Alexa will need to start figuring out how to develop the skills in other languages as well. Translated, for instance, does not allow users who speak German to translate German into any other languages with Alexa.
For now, it appears that Amazon is most interested in integrating Alexa into people’s lives in multiple ways. This is beneficial for Amazon because users who use Alexa are reportedly more likely to actually purchase products through Amazon. Alexa is becoming more ubiquitous and is now available in some Ford vehicles to assist drivers with music and navigation. Although this seems very exciting, we can imagine a scenario where placing Alexa in a vehicle, who only speaks two languages, might be a missed opportunity. When people from foreign countries come to visit the US, it would very helpful to have rental cars available that can guide drivers using their own language. Hopefully, this will be a goal in Ford’s and Amazon’s future. For now, users can opt to say “Alexa, take me home” or “Alexa, Bring mich nach Hause.”