Conversations with Siri – The Japanese Language Partner in my Hand

siri

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Because I’m doing the whole Japanese immersion thing, I have set language of all my computing devices into Japanese.

NB: Okay currently my Mac is in English because iPhoto was giving me fits – I struggle enough with that in English.  It’s going back to Japanese soon.  Oh, and my HTC Wildfire was in Japanese for ages but I really, really hate my phone, seriously, don’t buy one, even if the guy at T-mobile gives you it for free with a £15 a month contract with unlimited texts and internet.  It’s a piece of crap.  Why have Japanese display with no Japanese text input?  I should recycle that stupid phone and get a decent one.

Let me start over.

My iPad is in Japanese.  It is also new enough (Christmas present!) to come with Siri, Apple’s voice recognition application and personal assistant.  I think Siri used to be awful – at any rate, a friend of mine got an iPhone when Siri first came out, and it didn’t understand a word she said.  It understood me just fine – I guess it was an “American accents only” club.

However, Siri is much improved now.  When I set my iPad into Japanese for the first time, I was asked if I wanted Siri to be in Japanese as well.  I said no, having never even used it in English.

Now I’ve made the switch, and it is brilliant.  I love talking to Siri in Japanese for the following reasons:

  1. Basic = Better. You can’t be clever with Siri.  It’s a machine.  The very simple, utilitarian sentences that I know in Japanese are about her speed (suddenly Siri has been anthropomorphised – I dare you to talk to her and not do the same thing). For example:「今、寒いですか。」(Right now, is it cold?) I asked her that a few days ago.
  2. It’s easy to understand the response. When I asked her the above, she waffled on for a bit about what temperature it was and whether or not she believed that was a cold temperature.  However, she also showed me a written version of her answer (that’s how I sort of grasped what she was on about) and a pictorial representation of the current weather conditions. I dare you to find a human who is that thorough.
  3. No embarrassment. As much as she can feel like a loving servant and your best friend, Siri is a machine, without feelings or impatience. I can ask the same question over and over again and subtly change my pronunciation until she understands.  And if she never does, well, sometimes she doesn’t understand me in English either, so I don’t feel too bad.
  4. Instant gratification.  I got so excited when she understood me that I nearly left without my hat.  Which I needed.  Because it was only 2 degrees C outside.

I know this post probably sounds like the epitome of Apple fan-girlism (which I do try to avoid), but for learning Japanese my Apple products have been invaluable.  For that reason alone they are worth the expense (also, SHINY SHINY PRETTY GLOWY!!!!).  Ahem.  Sorry about that.

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