Amazon Teaches Alexa Arabic, Launches Echo Devices in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
Amazon has taught Alexa to speak Arabic as part of launching the voice assistant and Echo line of smart devices in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Alexa can now converse in Gulf Arabic, the local dialect of the language known as Khaleeji through the six types of Echo smart speaker and smart display now on sale in both countries.
Amazon worked with local volunteers to teach Alexa to speak Arabic over the last two years. The result encompasses more than just straight translation from English. Dialect phrases, cultural references, and crucial information for locals have all been incorporated into the Arabic model, allowing it to understand casual Arabic and answer questions about the next time for prayer.
Alexa will show off its Arabic skills in three Echo smart speakers and three Echo smart displays. The collection includes the most recent Amazon Echo, the current and previous generations of the Echo Dot, and the Echo Show 5, 8, and 10. All six are now on sale in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Alexa-enabled devices have not been supported in either country until now, with any Echo used there requiring access to to the U.S. or UK system to operate.
“We’re incredibly excited to bring Alexa and the Echo family of devices to the United Arab Emirates,” Alexa senior vice president Tom Taylor said in a statement for the UAE, with the same statement sent to Saudi Arabia adjusted accordingly. “The team has worked hard to create an all-new Khaleeji Arabic experience designed from the ground up for Arabic-speaking customers and to optimize the Alexa experience in English for English-speakers to enjoy.”
Amazon hinted that the launch was coming earlier this year when it introduced the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to developers in both countries in Gulf Arabic. Bringing ASK early provided time for the rise of local Alexa developer communities ahead of the formal arrival of Echo devices and Alexa. The resulting partnerships mean there are several Arabic Alexa skills now available, including Expo 2020, Careem, Fatafeat and Reel Cinemas. Amazon also teamed with local streaming service Anghami to add its catalog of Arabic music and podcasts to Amazon Music.
Amazon had previously sent out emails to potential developers in the UAE in April about bringing Alexa to that country. The letter was a more general discussion of testing Alexa features, however, so it might have also been about trying to localize information and other methods of incorporating Alexa Voice Service (AVS). AVS has been on a streak of expansion into new countries all over the world, most recently in Belgium and Switzerland after bringing AVS to Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru in April, Poland and Sweden in March, and Colombia and the Netherlands at the end of 2020. The latest launch also ties into the digital goals for both countries, which each have ministries devoted to this kind of technology.
“On our way to becoming a world leader in Artificial Intelligence, we welcome Alexa to the United Arab Emirates”, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama said in a statement. “Much like AI is at the core of Alexa’s personality, we are working on doing the same for the entire nation – building an AI-driven economy that contributes significantly to education, government development, and the happiness of our community.”