How I tested Alexa translation skills
Updated: Jul 6
Our blog readers will remember the article I wrote a while ago about how we tested Skype Translator in Russian. Now the time has come to put Alexa, the Amazon Echo smart speaker, through a similar test.
I must say initially I resisted allowing Alexa into our household but since it arrived it has become a useful tool playing the radio and giving quick answers to simple questions.
Quite often answers to such questions come from Wikipedia, and if Alexa can’t find an answer, especially if you ask your question in a roundabout way, it will simply say: “I am sorry, I don’t know that one.”
Amazon says Alexa devices can only understand English but among its thousands of skills is a translation tool, with automatic translations coming from Amazon labs’ machine translation engine. So I checked it out by asking it to translate simple phrases, nothing complex, into Russian.
I was astounded to hear that out of a dozen words and phrases it got three wrong.
You can hear the recording of our conversation here.
“Alexa, how do you say translator in Russian?”
Alexa’s answer: Транслатор (the word doesn’t exist, a close variant is транслятор, but I was actually after переводчик)
“Alexa, how do you say 'How are you?' in Russian?
Alexa’s answer: Как ваши дѐла? (the stress is on the wrong syllable);
“Alexa, how do you say 'Good night' in Russian?
I still don’t know what Alexa said in reply to this one. I don’t think it’s Russian. But if it isn’t, does anyone know what language it is? Answers on the postcard please, or in the comments below!