Google Assistant Coming to 30 Languages and Adding Multi-lingual Support in 2018

Google Assistant already supports eight languages today, but that is going to change substantially in 2018. Nick Fox, Vice President of Product for Google said today in a blog post that Google Assistant will support more than 30 languages later this year.

The Assistant is already available in eight languages, and by the end of the year it will be available in more than 30 languages, reaching 95 percent of all eligible Android phones worldwide. In the next few months, we’ll bring the Assistant to Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai on Android phones and iPhones, and we’ll add more languages on more devices throughout the year.

The focus on smartphones in the blog post may driven in party by the proximity of Mobile World Congress next week. However, don’t assume that this means you will be able to access all of these languages on Google Home or that Google’s smart speakers will be available in these countries. You can use Google Assistant in Italian today on a smartphone, but you cannot acquire a Google Home device that supports the language. With that said, once there is language support through Assistant, the likelihood that Google Home will become available increases.

Google Assistant to Add Multi-Lingual Support

Even more interesting is the news that Google Assistant will become multi-lingual. You will be able to speak more than one language to your Google Assistant-enabled device and it will understand and respond to the interaction regardless of what geography you are located. This feature will be limited initially to English, French and German.

We’re also making the Assistant multilingual later this year, so families or individuals that speak more than one language can speak naturally to the Assistant. With this new feature, the Assistant will be able to understand you in multiple languages fluently. If you prefer to speak German at work, but French at home, your Assistant is right there with you. Multilingual will first be available in English, French and German, with support for more languages coming over time.

Again, there is no mention of Google Home. However, the difference here is that Google Home products are sold in several English, French and German speaking countries. A Google spokesperson confirmed over email that multi-lingual features will be available on Google Home.

Let’s consider the use case alignment for this feature. Multi-lingual support is far more beneficial on a multi-user smart speaker than a single-user smartphone. Families may speak one language at home and one at work. Or, some family members may only understand one language while others prefer a different language. Once you have this feature, it makes sense to provide it on smart speakers. I have heard from many of my German friends that they would like to set their Google Home default to English so they have access to all of the English-language Google Assistant apps. However, they also want to be able to access local German Assistant apps or allow other other family members to speak in their native tongue. Some version of this reality will soon be available to them.

Google’s Global Language Advantage

I have written extensively on Google’s many advantages in proliferating Assistant usage across the globe. Among those are the extensive automated speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) assets previously developed to support smartphone and search use cases. Today’s announcement by Google is more affirmation of the veracity of these advantages. It also reinforces other data points such as the expectation that Google Home will have a global smart speaker market share lead in 2022 and the growing list of Google Assistant supported devices.

It is not likely that Amazon will add 30 new languages in 2018 or seek to serve 95% of the global population. The voice assistant market is moving quickly and Google Assistant will be first to market for many languages. It will also benefit from distribution on the smartphone platform with 85% global market share. The key question will be whether and how quickly these users develop habits around Google Assistant and raise barriers to adoption for competitors. That is a question for the future. For today, this announcement is a strong way to start out Mobile World Congress week.

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