Around the world, millions of people are multilingual or partly so. In the U.S., census data reflect that 20 percent of the population speaks more than one language at home (though this really only captures immigrants). But in what I imagine is something of a speech recognition breakthrough, Google’s search app can now understand commands and queries in multiple languages simultaneously.
According to a blog post today, multiple language speakers can adjust their settings once (selecting up to five languages) and then simply speak any of 50 languages that Google understands, switching back and forth at will. Previously, users could only speak in one language at a time:
Now, you can just make a small, one-time change to your settings, and then you can switch back and forth easily. Google will automatically detect which language you’re using. (For now, you need to stick to one language per sentence though.) You can select up to five languages total—enough to satisfy all but the most advanced polyglots. Whether you get a spoken response from Google depends on the language you use and your query (and you’ll see more languages and features added over time).
In many countries, immigrants and their kids speak the native language but also the adopted country’s dominant language interchangeably in a mixed linguistic phenomenon that is quite common. Google is seeking to mirror that behavior in its search app.
If Google can actually pull this off with accuracy, it will be impressive — n’est–ce pas?