From the Windows Phone blog:
When we introduced Cortana as a beta as part of Windows Phone 8.1 in the U.S. this past spring, she generated worldwide interest and excitement which was amazing to see. With the Windows Phone 8.1 Update we announced last summer, we extended Cortana’s availability as a beta into China and the U.K. Since then, we have been working very hard to continuously deliver updates including making her available in more languages. Later today, we will begin rolling out an update to the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program that makes Cortana available in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain as an “alpha”.
Alpha means that Cortana is new to these countries, most of the features in the beta version are available but some are missing or coming soon. For example, flight tracking is not available at this time for alpha. Transit data is currently limited to larger cities and will expand as we have more data. Additionally, reference data (e.g. “How tall is Mt. Everest”) is also not available – but we’re working hard to enable this soon! We have also worked hard to tailor Cortana’s personality in each language (with local chit chat and jokes) to make her more locally and culturally relevant (i.e. make sure she fits in!). Cortana will also show European football (or as we Americans call “soccer”) league data, including Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, and La Liga.
The idea, of course, is that Microsoft gets more experience with handling queries in these languages. Slow but steady seems to be the mantra and, in fairness, Cortana works very well indeed in English here.
The blog post contains a lot more detail, ending with:
Expanding Cortana availability has been a top request on our Windows Phone UserVoice page. Your requests help shape the product and we want to thank you for the feedback and comments. Keep them coming!
If you have specific asks, please send us feedback here on UserVoice. We are monitoring the feedback very closely to learn how we can make Cortana even more delightful and useful for you.
Over time, we are planning to make Cortana available as a beta in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain just like in the U.S., China, and U.K. and we’re dedicated to helping more people around the world get access to Cortana, the truly personal digital assistant!
Good stuff! The firmware update is now live, by the way, as mentioned here.