Siri Isn’t Great At Chinese, Especially When It Comes To Questions About Tiananmen Square

Apple’s Siri seems to be struggling a bit with her Mandarin skills, with some Chinese-speakers complaining that her accent is clipped and clinical in comparison to her flowing English. Other reactions to Apple’s newest features for Chinese Siri not only include criticism of her grasp of the country’s languages, but also deal with how she handles questions about Tiananmen Square.

The Wall Street Journal notes that reviews of the newest Siri, which includes Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking versions, have been mixed. Yes, she can make a bit of a joke out of a marriage proposal, saying she’s already in love with his friend’s iPhone or handle basic tasks.

But then some users tested her on the field of free speech, asking her questions about the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. One screenshot a reviewer took shows her answering, “I couldn’t find any appointments related to ‘Do you know about Tiananmen.'” Another attempt of, “What happened on June 4, 1989?” — garnered the response of: “I’m sorry, the person you are looking for is not in your address book.”

It’s important to note that others have pointed out Siri has problems with other locations as well, which could mean her Chinese just needs some work.

Says the WSJ:

“At this point, Siri’s Chinese isn’t up to snuff. She can understand basic speech, but with complex speech she doesn’t work,” one reviewer wrote on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service above a screenshot of Siri producing an error when asked directions to a location in central Beijing. “Right now, she doesn’t support searches for some types of information.”

Siri Really Speaks Chinese — Just Don’t Ask Her About Tiananmen [Wall Street Journal]


Edit Your Comment

  1. APFPilot says:

    Does pretty much the same thing in English. Says no appointment if you ask the date, and if you ask if it knows about Tiananmen Square it pulls up a map of the location.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    “What happened on June 4, 1989?”

    I’m sorry, any further questions regarding this topic will be tranfered to the Ministry of Truth where you will be recommended for re-education through forced labor.

    Have a splendid day!!!

  3. ein727 says:

    Why does every time Siri not do something right/ does something funny / etc it becomes a story?

    I’m generally not one who cries “why is this on consumerist” but come on, why is this on consumerist?

  4. Trireme32 says:

    My phone also didn’t come up with anything for “What happend on July 4th, 1776?” – it recommended a web search, and “Do you know about the Boston Tea Party” came up with the location of 6 tea rooms in Boston. Does that mean that Siri is censored in the US as well? Seems to me like things are being blown a bit out of proportion…

  5. redskull says:

    So Siri is a sophisticated yet still somewhat limited program and there’s not actually a real tiny person inside the iPhone. Got it.

  6. Stiv says:

    iOS 6, which adds Siri Chinese language support, is still in development. The official release is later this fall. Beta software is beta.

  7. BigHeadEd says:

    If you speak to Siri in Farsi she directs you to the nearest Apple store with instructions to hand over your iPhone.

  8. mingtae says:

    Does it speak Bochi and can it understand the language of binary moist evaporators?

  9. audguy says:

    you do realize that it is still in beta, right? Plus as far as I have heard, English is Siri’s best language. believe it or not Siri is even male in some languages.

  10. theconversationalist says:

    It consistently thinks I want some place in Mexico when I ask for the “TA Travel Center” (a chain of travel/truck stops in the Western US). It tells me it can’t look up stuff in Mexico. Love Siri, but it has some really weird blind spots.

  11. shthar says:

    I bet she understands Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  12. missminimonster says:

    Maybe some of it is because Chinese is a tonal language and has so many dialects that differ so widely. My ex-in-laws were from Sichuan, for example, and couldn’t understand Mandarin.