Google has some pretty big news for you. Later this year, Google Assistant will have multilingual features. Which means, people who speak different languages over the course of their day can switch seamlessly between languages. But not just some languages, Google says it will be able to understand 30 different languages. Which is estimated to cover about 95% of all Android users. In addition, the Assistant won’t be limited to speaking just one language at a time, but it will be able to automatically detect your language each time you speak and then respond using that language. If you are bilingual, or multilingual, you won’t have to pick one language to speak in any longer.
This is great news, in my opinion. This is also one of those things that I think is incredible from a technology perspective. Sure, it’s great to have a smart speaker that will interact with us in one language. But Google being able to take this to the next level means that it’s no longer limiting who can use the device. Which kind of also makes this a great marketing tool.
When Google first launched the assistant, it was only available in English. But over time it began supporting additional languages – such as French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Brazillian Portuguese. Which means Google has to be able to add 22 more languages over the remainder of the year. But Google doesn’t plan to stop at just 30. 30 is enough to let them feel like they’ve gone global, but it isn’t going to mean they will leave it at that. The new languages they intend to add over the next few months include – Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai.
Being able to switch between languages on the fly is a big improvement, too. Previously, you had to completely change Android’s language settings in order to change what language the Assistant was in, which essentially meant you were stuck speaking only one language since switching was a hassle. One thing the Assistant still can’t do, though, is to decipher multiple languages in the same sentence; it’s still one language at a time. The multilingual feature will be limited to English, French, and German at launch but is supposed to expand to more languages “over time.”
I mean, I understand that there are people who speak more than one language at a time, but I wonder if that’s too ambitious for a smart speaker anyway? This will also give Google Assistant an advantage over rivals like Siri and Alexa, which have more limited language support. Amazon may have expanded Echo speakers to more markets around the world, but it hasn’t localized the device for those locations – Alexa only speaks English, German and Japanese. Meanwhile, one of Siri’s biggest strengths had been the fact that it could speak over 20 languages. I think this is an incredible improvement for Google, and I hope that Amazon follows suit to improve their products. Otherwise, they won’t be able to continue to compete with Google in non-English speaking countries and homes.