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Google's Android search app adds multi-language voice feature

After a delay in rolling out the feature, the Internet giant makes it possible for people to switch languages on the fly when making voice searches.


Multi-linguists rejoice.

Google on Thursday updated its Voice Search app -- which lets users say search queries aloud instead of typing them -- to support more than one language at a time. That means that a speaker who knows multiple languages can switch among them when making voice searches without having to change the settings on the app.

The new feature is able to understand up to five languages at a time, though the user has to preselect each language before using the app. The one catch: You'll have to stick to one language per sentence, for now. Whether you get a spoken response from the app depends on which language you are speaking. The company said it will build out the language support over time.

The move is in line with Google's recent efforts to make its products more accessible. The company announced earlier this month that it had opened up Gmail's support of more of the world's languages. Gmail will now be able to recognize email addresses that use characters from languages such as Chinese and Devanagari and will also recognize addresses with accented Latin characters, like "é" or "ó."

"For many people out there, speaking just one language isn't enough. More than half the world's population speaks two or more languages -- and now Google can keep up," wrote David Eustis, a software engineer for Google's Android operating system, wrote in a blog post. Google declined to comment beyond the blog post.

The feature rolled out Thursday after an almost two month delay. In June, Google engineers expressed to CNET the difficulty of the seemingly simple task. The team had originally intended for the app to support seven languages instead of five.

"In order for this digital assistant to be part of your everyday life, it just has to work," said Johann Schalkwyk, a lead staff software engineer on Google's voice-recognition team.