Google Lets Search Android App Users Use Multiple Languages

The new capability in the Android Search app means that users can look for something in one language and then send a message to a friend in another language without changing the app's settings each time.

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Google has improved its Android app for Google Search to allow users to perform tasks using five different languages without having to manually change the language settings in the app each time they want to use a different language.

The new feature was announced by David Eustis, an Android software engineer, in an Aug. 21 post on the Google Inside Search Blog.

"For many people out there, speaking just one language isn't enough," wrote Eustis. "More than half the world's population speaks two or more languages—and now Google can keep up. With the Google Search app on Android, you can speak in multiple languages and Google will understand you no matter which one you choose. So you can fire off a search for nearby restaurants in English, then dictate a text to your friend in French."

The new language capabilities expand the Android search app to make it even more useful, especially when traveling in another country.

"You can use voice search in more than 50 languages and dialects already, but previously you had to change your settings if you wanted to switch languages," which took longer to perform, wrote Eustis. "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."

So far, users will still have to continue to stick with one language per sentence in the search app, but that potentially could change in the future. "You can select up to five languages total—enough to satisfy all but the most advanced polyglots," he wrote. "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)."

To use the new feature, Android users must be sure to have the latest Google Search App (version 3.6) from the Play Store on their device, he wrote. Users can then open Google Settings from their device's apps menu, tap Search & Now -> Voice -> Languages, and select your languages, he wrote.

Google is often busy adding new language capabilities to its many services for users.

In August, Google created an online Translate Community where language lovers can contribute their expertise to continually refine Google's online translation services. The new Translate user forum gives volunteers the opportunity to create new translations of words and phrases that need to be added, make corrections for existing translations that can be improved and rate existing translations for accuracy, according to Google.

The Translate Community will also be a place where volunteers will be asked to contribute toward new languages that are added to the service over time, according to a Google FAQ about the service. "While Google Translate is a statistical machine translation tool [you can learn more about it here], we sometimes need help from native speakers to improve our algorithms and learn your language a little better."

So far, Google Translate supports 80 languages from around the world. And while the system works by analyzing a vast amount of previously translated texts available on the Web, sometimes human intervention is also needed to ensure the accuracy of translations for relatively simple words and phrases, according to the FAQs.

In July, Google added translation support for 13 additional languages for Gmail users. This brings the total number of languages supported to 71. The added languages were Afrikaans, Armenian, Azerbaijani (Azeri), Chinese (Hong Kong), French (Canada), Galician, Georgian, Khmer, Lao, Mongolian, Nepali, Sinhala and Zulu. Some of the new languages now supported by Gmail had already been rolled out previously as part of other Google services, including Google Search, Maps, Drive, Docs and YouTube, according to Google.

In December 2013, Google Translate added nine more languages—including five in Africa—to its offerings, raising its support to translations for 80 languages. The additional African languages were Hausa, which is spoken in Nigeria and neighboring countries, with 35 million native speakers; Igbo, which is spoken in Nigeria, with 25 million native speakers; Yoruba, which is spoken in Nigeria and neighboring countries, with 28 million native speakers; Somali, which is spoken in Somalia and other countries around the Horn of Africa, with 17 million native speakers; and Zulu, which is spoken in South Africa and other southwestern African countries, with 10 million native speakers.

In November 2013, Google made its Google Translate language translation app for Android faster and expanded its coverage to several additional foreign languages, including Malay and Ukranian.

The Translate app, introduced in 2010, allows users to speak into an Android device to get a translation into another language or to use a built-in handwriting feature to get translations. Those capabilities are useful for travelers when they are in places where non-native languages are spoken.

The latest version of Google Translate includes more language support for the built-in handwriting feature, which now gives users the ability to directly write words in Hebrew, Javanese and Esperanto on their devices so they can be translated on the fly. Users can also use the camera translation feature to take a photo of written text with an Android device and then highlight the words they'd like to be translated.