You’d think that adapting Alexa, which supports a range of languages, including Spanish, German, and Japanese, to varieties within a dialect continua would be a piece of cake compared with “teaching” it new language families, but that isn’t the case. According to the Seattle company’s researchers, the gulf between, say, British English and American English is wide enough that it often necessitates training models from scratch.

That’s not ideal — Alexa should theoretically be able to bootstrap language training using preexisting knowledge. This is why scientists at Amazon are investigating a technique that susses out the topic of a customer’s request, such as music, weather, or sports, and identifies language that isn’t relevant to a given domain.

They describe their work in a newly published

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