Language tech developments at the 8th Google for India conference

At the eighth Google for India event earlier this week, Google announced a handful of new language technology developments that it’s rolling out in India.

While other, less linguistically focused developments were also announced, the Dec. 19 conference had a marked focus on the company’s efforts to build and improve language-related technology.

“From breaking down language barriers, to helping a billion people access information in more natural ways, to keeping people safe at every step, these innovations underscore our commitment to helping make a digital India a reality,” the company wrote in a blog post summing up the conference on Monday.

Users in India will soon be able to opt into a bilingual search function, allowing them to view results in English and their local language, rather than the monolingual search results Google has historically provided when a user enters search prompts in a given language. Google has already begun rolling this feature out for speakers of Hindi, and will do so for Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu in the coming year. This feature will allow users in the country to more easily access a breadth of information without having to enter search prompts in multiple languages or change their search settings.

Additionally, the company is working to make its “multisearch” function — in which users can enter search queries with a combination of images and text — available in multiple Indian languages, starting first with Hindi.

In addition to streamlining the search functionality for multilingual speakers of Indian languages, Google also announced that it has improved its speech recognition technology for Hinglish, a variant of English featuring words and structures from Hindi and other Indian languages.

Google noted that users in India used the voice search function at a rate of twice the global average. Due to the increased demand, Google has worked to improve its Hinglish speech recognition model, to make the voice search function more accessible. “We want to help more people, and specifically Indians, ask questions naturally and intuitively with their voice,” the company wrote. 

“As we head into the next year, we remain committed to putting our technology to work to help even more people across the country,” the company’s blog post concludes. “India’s unique approach to embracing digital technology has had transformative effects across society.”

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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