Whether you’ve come to say “Hola!” or “Bienvenue” or “Auf Wiedersehen,” Google Assistant is ready to answer you right back as the smart assistant becomes the first of its kind to go fully bilingual. Users can now speak two languages interchangeably with the Google Assistant on smart speakers and phones and the Assistant will respond in kind.
As of right now, the Assistant can understand any pair of languages with English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, with more languages to come in the coming months.
Although it’s an advancement for the worldwide market, there have been hints of the new ability coming since the beginning of the year as Google rolled out new features and analysts reverse-engineered the launch of new routines and integrations for Assistant. Google announced at the beginning of the year that it anticipated offering support for up to 30 languages by the end of 2018. In February, it announced a breakthrough feature by which Google Assistant could automatically detect which language a user’s commands were in and respond in kind. Google also published a technical blog post explaining how the speech research team at Google tackled the multilingual problem.
Bilingualism is also likely to lead to multilingualism, a natural progression of Google’s direction. But even the ability to detect and speak two languages simultaneously is a huge win for bilingual communities like Quebec, where most people speak French and English, and India, where demand for bilingual services in Hindi and English is so high that Google recently developed bilingual support for its Feed service (previously known as Google Now), and expects to roll out support for Hindi very soon.
The new bilingual feature will also be particularly helpful for Google Assistant users who speak their native language in their home, but may speak a different language at work or while out with friends.
Previously, Google Assistant was capable of understanding different languages but users had to physically designate a primary and a secondary language in the app’s settings. The new feature goes a long way toward reducing that friction and giving users the organic engagement that is high on Google’s list of goals.
By year’s end, Google’s language support services are expected to allow the company to reach 95 percent of Android smartphones worldwide that are capable of running Google Assistant.
The development is a big leg up for Google and an indication of the strength of its language support and artificial intelligence development. The company has struggled since the launch of the Google Home smart speaker line to compete with Amazon, which launched Alexa earlier but, like Siri, has much more limited language support than Google does.
The announcement included the fact that Google Home Max will launch on Thursday, August 30, in the U.K., France, and Germany. Google Home Max has been available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia for nearly a year.
The mega version of Google’s smart speaker features “Smart Sound,” enabling it to automatically adapt itself based on where it’s placed in the room. The high-end smart speaker also works with more than 150 home automation brands and more than 1,000 smart home devices.
Google also announced that its “ecosystem partners” will be introducing new phones and a range of smart home devices and appliances that support the Google Assistant in Europe in the near future.