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Iceland Mag

Culture is looking for a linguist to teach Alexa Icelandic

By Staff

  • Amazon Echo speakers Alexa will soon be able to talk to you in Icelandic Photo/Vísir-Getty

The American technology corporation is looking to hire an Icelandic linguist or someone with expert knowledge of Icelandic linguistics to help develop a speech recognition software for the personal assistant Alexa.

Read more: The Icelandic language is in danger of disappearing

It looks like Alexa will soon be speaking a whole lot of new languages, as the company is looking to hire experts in thirteen other languages including Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and German.

The personal assistant Alexa comes with the Amazon Echo speakers manufactured and sold by Amazon. 

According to the job posting on applicants must have:

- Solid knowledge of phonetics/phonology.
- Native-level proficiency in the target language.
- Solid knowledge of regular expressions.
- Ability to create / fix phonetic transcriptions in the target language.
- Knowledge of Unix/Linux command line tools.

The application deadline is March 31 2017.

A big step for the Icelandic language
Icelandic linguists have worried that since Icelandic is only spoken by a 330,000 people it would not be cost effective to teach computers to speak Icelandic. Icelanders would be forced to interact with the internet of things in English, which would gradually come to replace Icelandic.

This is not the first time Amazon shows interest in Icelandic. In December Amazon introduced a service called Polly, a lifelike text-to-speech software, which can read Icelandic.

The introduction of Polly was greeted with considerable excitement from Icelandic linguists who argued it might herald a new chapter in the adoption of Icelandic to the computer age. Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, a professor of Icelandic linguistics at the University of Iceland, told the local news site Vísir at the time that the big test for Icelandic would be whether speech recognition tools like Alexa would be taught Icelandic. 

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