Google Assistant

By: Nick Gambino

Google’s resident voice assistant aptly titled “Google Assistant” just picked up a new trick that might just woo consumers away from the Amazon Echo. The assistant, and therefore Google Home, can now understand and speak two languages at once.

While this might seem like a given, Google Home is actually the first smart speaker to add the function. With somewhere around 50% of the world’s population able to speak at least two languages, we shouldn’t discount how big a deal this might be for buyers.

Users will be able to bounce between any set of two languages, much like they would in daily conversations at home. They could jump between Spanish and English, for example. Whatever language you speak to Google Home within the two selected, it will respond in that language.

This is particularly useful in homes where a couple or family speak two languages. By seamlessly working between the two, it continues to assist as opposed to hinder when you can’t find the word you want to communicate. Until now, users would have to go to their settings and manually change the language to a different one.

“If you’re looking for an answer in English, ask, ‘Hey Google, what’s the weather like today?’ If you’re craving tunes from your favorite German hip-hop band, just ask ‘Hey Google, spiele die Fantastischen Vier,’” the Google blog post reads. “Currently, the Assistant can understand any pair of languages within English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. We’ll be expanding to more languages in the coming months.”

You can pair any combination of those languages. For example, you can select English-Italian, French-Japanese, German-French, etc. Unfortunately, you can’t jump between languages in one sentence like you might when conversing in both English and Spanish. You must begin and end a sentence in one language.

This feature was announced at the I/O developer conference a few months back but all was quiet on that front until yesterday’s announcement. It might seem like a simple function to add and that might be true if the feature just allowed one language at a time with the option of switching to another language. Instead what they did is combine languages so Google Assistant has to listen and determine what language is being spoken right at the beginning of the sentence and have an answer all ready to go by the end of the sentence. This was no small feat, but by all accounts, they’ve delivered.


Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.