Facebook’s A.I. Messenger Now Se Habla Español

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the commencement address at Harvard on May 25 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

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Facebook has taken the next step in making its platform multilingual for its worldwide user base. Its A.I. assistant, M, can now offer suggestions in Spanish.

M is an artificial intelligence program that scans the content of the messages that you send through Facebook Messenger. It scans the text that you send to other Messenger users and makes suggestions for actions that you might want to take based on the content of your messages. If you write “Hello,” for example, the program may pull up waving emojis. M will also suggest that you create plans, send your location, or send an online payment through the application.

The Spanish options are available to users in the U.S. and will soon be rolled out in Mexico as well. Facebook has not announced whether it plans to make the feature available to other Spanish-speaking countries as well. The suggestions will appear in Spanish only if users are conversing in Spanish, or if they have their Facebook language preference set in Spanish.

The Spanish program currently works the same way as in English. Say you are trying to meet your friend in a crowded part of town, but they cannot find you. If they ask “¿Dónde estás?” (“Where are you?”), the app will pull up the suggestion for you to send your location in a small window just above the box where you compose your messages.

Facebook currently offers a few other features in languages besides English. On the website itself, Facebook statuses that are not in your default language are automatically translated. Facebook also offers a feature called Pages, which is user-activated and allows participants to compose statuses in various languages. The user simply selects the options for different languages, and writes up her own translations of her status. If the status appears to other users with a default language that matches one of the languages provided, the status will show up to those users in that language.  

According to Facebook statistics, the site had “1.28 billion daily active users on average as of March 31, 2017,” with about 85.8 percent of those people located outside of the United States and Canada. A 2016 article in USA Today estimated that more than 1 billion Facebook users speak a language other than English, so it makes sense that the company would try to expand its linguistic offerings. Facebook has also made efforts in the past to document endangered languages.