Today, we are very pleased to announce the launch of Voice Search in Arabic and Hebrew for Android and iPhone users.
Users in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, UAE, and Israel can now speak Arabic and Hebrew into their phones to get search results quickly and easily. With this launch, Voice Search is now supported in 29 languages and accents in 37 countries.
When building support for Arabic and Hebrew into our language model we faced some unique challenges, including how to understand words with diacritics (accents that indicate a difference in pronunciation, a linguistic phenomenon called “Nikud” in Hebrew, and “Tashkil” in Arabic) and words appended with other words (“and” for example) that can have many different nuanced meanings.
To train our system we collected over one million utterances in Arabic and Hebrew, using the languages as they are spoken in the more populated parts of each country. For Arabic, we trained the system to recognize Gulf, Levant and Egyptian dialects. While initially we may not accurately recognize words spoken in every regional accent and dialect, one of the major benefits to Google’s cloud-based model is that the more people use Voice Search, the more accurate it becomes.
How you get started with Google Voice Search depends on what kind of phone you have. If your phone runs Android 2.2 or later, and you see the microphone icon on the Google Search widget on your homescreen, all you have to do is tap the icon to start a voice-powered search. Otherwise, you can install the Voice Search app from Android Market. Note that you can only speak one language into the app at any time and that you may need to change your language setting first.
To get Google Search App for iPhone, search for ‘Google Search App’ in the App Store or follow this link. If you already have Google Search App installed, you can enable voice search by selecting the new languages from the settings panel within the app.