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Google Voice Search adds 13 languages for a total of 42; Siri still at 4

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Adoro falar con xente na súa propia lingua.

You probably don’t understand that, but Google does. Google Voice Search just added 13 new languages, including Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Portuguese to bring its total linguistic competency to 42 languages and dialects.

Meanwhile, Siri knows English, French, German, and Japanese, although Apple will be adding another 11 when iOS 6 hits in the fall.

Adding languages is not easy, but it’s a task that is custom-built for big data, and Google has big data in its back pocket. Before a language comes onstream, the company needs a minimum of hundreds of thousands of phrases, which the company can then parse as its servers learn to translate.

For some languages it’s easier than others: Google says that while Romanian follows predictable pronunciation rules, Swedish does not. (Perhaps that’s why there are so many good Romanian hackers?)

The full list of new languages also includes Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Hungarian, Icelandic, Serbian, Slovak, and Galician.

(No, I’d never heard of Galician before either. Wikipedia says it’s the language that is spoken in Galicia, which makes sense, and that Galicia is an autonomous region of northwestern Spain. Another day, another lesson.)

The update is rolling out now but won’t be fully operational for another week. Android users with version 2.2 (Froyo) or later get it automatically; others may need to install the Google Voice app. And iPhone users will presumably also be getting the update as part of the bundle of services in the Google for iPhone app, but there is no word on timing — or even a mention of the iOS app in the Google announcement. Read into that whatever you wish.

So that phrase above? It’s Galician for “I love talking to people in their own language.”

Of course, knowing that Google Voice Search and Google Translate aren’t perfect, especially with new languages … with my luck, it probably says something like “Your mother has hairy legs and smells like a goat.”

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photo pin cc

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