Google Search by Voice Learns Mandarin Chinese

November 2, 2009

Posted by Pedro J. Moreno, Research Scientist

Google Search by Voice was released more than one year ago as a feature of Google Mobile App, our downloadable application for smartphones. Its performance has been improving consistently and it now understands not only US English, but also UK, Australian, and Indian-English accents. However, this is far from Google's goal to find information and make it easily accessible in any language.

So, almost one year ago a team of researchers and engineers at Google's offices in Bangalore, Beijing, Mountain View, and New York decided we had to fix this problem. Our next question was, which should be our first language to address beyond English? We could have chosen many languages. The decision wasn't easy, but once we looked carefully at demographics and internet populations the choice was clear--we decided to work on Mandarin.

Mandarin is a fascinating language. Over this year we have learned about the differences between traditional and simplified Chinese, tonal characteristics in Chinese, pinyin representations of Chinese characters, sandhi rules, the different accents and languages in China, unicode representations of Chinese character sets...the list goes on and on. It has been a fascinating journey. The conclusion of all this work is today's launch of Mandarin Voice Search, as a part of Google Mobile App for Nokia s60 phones. Google Mobile App places a Google search widget on your Nokia phone's home screen, allowing you to quickly search by voice or by typing.

This is a first version of Mandarin search by voice and it is rough around the edges. It might not work very well if you have a strong southern Chinese accent for example, but we will continue working to improve it. The more you use it, the more it will improve, so please use it and send us your comments. And stay tuned for more languages. We know a lot of people speak neither English nor Mandarin!

To try Mandarin search by voice, download the new version of Google Mobile App on your Nokia S60 phone by visiting from your phone's browser.