Google has two new features to help you better learn tricky English words. Firstly, there’s an experimental pronunciation feature that lets you practice pronunciation of unfamiliar words right in Search. The other feature, meanwhile, will show you an image representing the word so you know what it is or what it exactly means.
“We’re helping people pronounce tricky words and understand the meaning of those words,” said Tal Snir, Google Search senior product manager, in a blog post.
Practice word pronunciation in Search
When you look up a pronunciation, not only Google will provide an answer but also let you practice it right in Search. Just tap the Practice button and speak the word into your phone’s microphone. Google will then provide feedback on if you said it correctly, or how you can improve it.
According to Google, the feature uses speech recognition technology and machine learning to tell if your pronunciation was correct. Firstly, it breaks the word into individual soundbites and then compares it to how experts pronounce it. It then offers syllable-specific feedback. If you try again, Google also tells you if this pronunciation was better than the previous one.
“For example, if you’re practicing how to say ‘asterisk,’ the speech recognition technology analyzes how you said the word and then, it recognizes that the last soundbite was pronounced ‘rict’ instead of ‘uhsk,'” Snir explained.
Google’s new pronunciation practice feature is now available on mobile devices. The feature is “experimental” and limited to American English pronunciation only. Google says Spanish will follow soon. Nevertheless, it’s a great tool to have, more so for language learners.
Images for word meaning
In addition to the pronunciation practice feature, Google is also adding images to dictionary definitions. When you lookup for a word meaning, its definition will be accompanied by an image to give you more context. This can be useful with words that have multiple meanings like “seal.” When you search for its meaning, you’ll be shown pictures of mechanical seals, embossed pieces of wax, and of course, the marine animal.
This feature is only available in English but Google plans to expand it to all languages. Also, it currently works only for nouns, which is quite understandable as it’s a bit harder to illustrate verbs or adverbs with an image.
Google says it plans to expand both of these features to more languages, accents, and regions in the future. The company seems to be well on course to develop a simple search function into a powerful language coach.