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There are times when I just want to lob my Echo out of the window. The most annoying aspect, by far, is when Alexa refuses to understand a command (“I’m sorry, I don’t understand that question”) – despite my screaming “Alexa, play Rod Stewart!” from 10cm away. Here’s why Alexa doesn’t understand what I’m saying.
Is Alexa saying she is “having trouble understanding right now”? Click here to find out why
Wi-Fi or firmware issues
If your Alexa is glowing red and says, “Sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you right now. Please try a little later”, there’s most likely a problem with your Wi-Fi. The first step is to check your router. If you see the dreaded yellow or amber lights, follow the usual diagnostic steps. If the problem persists, try rebooting or contacting your internet service provider.
Alternatively, your Echo device might not have the latest firmware – something it automatically checks for every night. You can force it to check for updates by muting your device for 30 minutes. If that doesn’t do the trick, peruse Amazon’s Alexa help checklist.
But what if there’s no Wi-Fi or firmware problem? Wouldn’t it be great if you could repeat a collection of set phrases so Alexa can get a handle on the quirks of your voice?
Well, you can… in the US. Unfortunately, the tool has yet to be rolled out over here and it’s easy to see why: the sheer number of accents, twangs, brogues, lilts and burrs in the UK means Amazon would have a lot of work on its hands.
Perhaps one reason for Amazon’s caution is that the feature has been tepidly received in America, with some users arguing that it actually makes things worse.
In the meantime, there’s no better advice than speaking as clearly as possible (although there’s no need to sound like a British Pathé narrator), staying calm and repeating the instruction. Also be aware that background noise – such as a passing lorry, barking dog or a neighbour blasting Boyz II Men – will dramatically impact Alexa’s ability to identify commands.