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Google Introduces Language Learning Feature on Search Platform

Google is taking a step into the language learning space with the launch of a new feature on its search platform designed to help users practice and enhance their English speaking skills. The feature, known as "Activity Off-Meta Technologies," is being introduced on Android devices in several countries, including Argentina, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Venezuela, with plans to expand to more countries and languages in the future.

This feature aims to provide interactive speaking practice for language learners who are translating to or from English. Google Search users will receive prompts and are encouraged to respond by speaking their answers. The practice sessions typically last between 3 to 5 minutes and offer personalized feedback.

The feedback provided by Google Search is quite detailed and includes semantic feedback, indicating whether the user's response was relevant to the question and comprehensible to a conversation partner. It also offers suggestions to improve grammar and provides alternative example answers at different language complexity levels. Additionally, users can tap on any word they don't understand to see a translation in the context of the sentence.

This language learning feature is designed to complement other learning resources, such as personal tutoring, mobile apps, and classes. It is aimed at providing learners with an additional tool to practice and improve their speaking skills.

The development of this feature required a significant amount of AI and machine learning engineering. The Google Translate team, for instance, had to create a model called Deep Aligner to connect different words and suggest translations. Other research groups adapted grammar correction models for speech transcriptions to cater to users with accented speech.

This new feature is a collaborative effort between linguists, teachers, ESL/EFL pedagogical experts, and AI technologies. Google also worked with various language learning partners to create content for this feature and plans to expand its collaboration with additional partners in the future.

It remains unclear whether Google's intention with this feature is to challenge established language learning apps such as Duolingo, Memrise, and Babbel, or if the goal is to offer an additional learning resource. The language in Google's blog post suggests the latter, but the potential for growth in the language learning market is significant. 

It's worth noting that Google has experimented with language learning and education tools in the past. In 2019, it introduced a module that allowed Search users to practice pronunciation and receive immediate feedback on the page.

As Google launches and expands this new language learning feature, its direction and popularity will likely dictate future growth and development plans.


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