Need Practice Speaking English? Meet Your New Tutor: Google Search

Everyone knows Google’s search engine can help them find just about anything, whether it’s a product, community, or piece of information. But did you know it can also help people improve their English-speaking abilities? Google recently announced on its blog that Search will now provide personalized, real-time feedback to certain users when they use the tool to translate to or from English, allowing them to gain valuable speaking practice. 

According to the blog post by Google Research Director Christian Plagemann and Product Manager Katya Cox, “Learners are presented with real-life prompts and then form their own spoken answers using a provided vocabulary word. They engage in practice sessions of three to five minutes [and have] the option to sign up for daily reminders to keep practicing … During practice sessions, learners can tap on any word they don’t understand to see the translation of that word considering its context.”

While Google Translate is already a go-to resource for non-native English speakers, the new feature in Google Search is designed specifically to help people learn the language and focuses heavily on speaking skills. It employs semantic analysis to determine the relevance of the user’s response, and then suggests grammatical improvements and provides example answers.

Google developed multiple AI models for the new Search feature, including one intended specifically for accented speech. In addition, to tackle the “word alignment problem” — how a word corresponds to a translated word or group of words in a sentence — Google built a deep-learning model called Deep Aligner that “can accurately align any language pair, reaching a state-of-the-art alignment error rate,” according to Plagemann and Cox.

For now, the new interactive feature is being rolled out only to Android users in Argentina, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Venezuela. But the company promises more locations are on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Cathy Martin
Cathy Martin is the managing editor for MultiLingual Media.


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