Google offers a silly solution for multilingual Android Auto users: Stick to one language


Google may offer quite some options for multilingual users, but there are still many hurdles when using the Assistant, Gboard, and other Google apps in two or more languages. Over the last year and a half or so, the problems have also moved over to Android Auto. Bilingual users have been reporting that the Assistant reads notifications in the wrong language, resulting in word soup and unintelligible sounds. After months of working on resolving the problem, Google has finally found a, uhm, let’s call it solution: Just remove your secondary language from the Assistant.

Of course, this isn’t a real solution. It’s the same workaround that’s been suggested to affected users for months, and it looks like the company gave up on resolving the issue properly on its end. People who use the Assistant in more than one language routinely experience unintelligible notifications to this day. In its Android Auto Known Issues thread, Google still updated the problem as resolved:

Recently addressed:

The announcement the company refers to can be found in the original thread where the bilingual problems were first discussed. In it, a Google Community Specialist suggested the following solution:

If your Google Assistant reads text messages in the wrong language, remove English as a secondary language. Then change your Google Assistant’s voice language to match your Google Assistant’s language.

That’s a little unclear, but what they mean is that you have to change your Android system language to match your Assistant language, as explained in a help article. That’s far from a proper solution and will hinder you from speaking to the Assistant in your secondary language, something multilinguals around the world have become used to on their phones and smart speakers.

It’s surprising that there’s supposedly no real fix for Android Auto users, especially considering that Google managed to overcome similar challenges in other products. Gboard voice input works with two or more languages (more or less well), and the Assistant on my Nest Hub routinely reads my German calendar entries in German, switching languages mid-sentence with little to no issues apart from a few edge cases (even though I haven’t even set up German for the Assistant at all).

You might think that this is a small issue that doesn’t affect too many people, but judging from the activity in the thread where the bug was originally reported, it looks like it’s widespread. And as the Washington Post wrote in 2019, half the world is bilingual, so it’s not like multilingual phone and Assistant setups are an edge case. Google really needs to step up its game and provide a real solution for those affected, as it has proven before that it’s capable of solving similar problems.

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