Google expands Voice Search to 13 new languages

17 Aug 2012

Internet giant Google has expanded its Voice Search capability in Android devices to 13 new languages, bringing the total to 42 languages and accents in 46 countries, and effectively bringing 100m new speakers into the fold.

The new languages include Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, European Portuguese, Finnish, Galician, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak and Swedish.

“Each new language usually requires that we initially collect hundreds of thousands of utterances from volunteers and, although we’ve been working on speech recognition for several years, adding these new languages led our engineers and scientists to tackle some unique challenges,” Bertrand Damiba, product manager at Google, explained.

“While languages like Romanian follow predictable pronunciation rules, others, like Swedish, required that we recruit native speakers to provide us with the pronunciations for thousands of words. Our scientists then built a machine learning system based on that data to predict how all other Swedish words would be pronounced.”

Damiba added that the update has started to roll out for devices with Android 2.2 and higher (just look for the microphone symbol in the search bar) and will continue to do so over the next week.

Otherwise users can download the Voice Search app from the Google Play app store.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years