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Amazon’s Alexa can now intuitively switch between more languages

New Fire TV routines and shopping features have been added as well

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Amazon is updating Alexa to allow it to automatically switch between more languages. The update comes after a flurry of small Alexa additions over the course of November, increasing functionality and making Alexa more useful.

Alexa first gained the ability to automatically respond to requests in English and other languages in 2019. However, you were limited to only two languages at a time. That hasn’t changed, but now users can enable a few more languages in the Alexa app. Alexa can speak German, French, Canadian-French, Japanese, Spanish, US-Spanish, and Hindi — all paired with English. Additionally, users can switch languages without pulling up the app by saying “Alexa, speak Spanish” to set a new primary language or “Alexa, speak Spanish and English” to set up a pair to switch between.

Alexa has also gained the ability to respond to what Amazon calls “latent goals.” This basically means that Alexa can address requests that are “hidden” within or naturally follow an original question. To borrow Amazon’s example, if you ask “How long does it take to steep tea?” then Alexa can assume that the latent goal is setting a tea timer, respond “Five minutes is a good place to start,” and follow that up with “Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?”

Besides these two major changes, Alexa has gained the ability to include Fire TV commands in Alexa routines. So you can say “Alexa, I’m grabbing a drink,” and Alexa will know to pause your show and turn on your kitchen lights. And to contribute to the ever-growing Alexa creep across products and services, you can now also use the assistant in the Amazon Shopping app to search for products and status updates on orders hands-free.

These are just a few of the skill-oriented changes to Alexa that Amazon rolled out in November. Echo devices as a whole have been updated, too. The Echo Frames are now widely available, the Echo Buds have new Alexa-enabled workout skills, and Echo Shows now have access to Amazon’s Care Hub for checking in on loved ones.