Skype Translator Learns Italian and Chinese
After connecting English and Spanish speakers, Microsoft's near-real-time translation app is growing its global vocabulary.Skype Translator has doubled its spoken language support to four languages, Microsoft announced today. "In December, we announced the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program and today we're excited to announce Skype Translator's next milestone, the addition of two spoken languages: Italian and Chinese (Mandarin), to the current offering of Spanish and English," said Yasmin Khan, a Microsoft senior product marketing manager, in an April 8 Skype Big Blog post. Available as an app for Windows 8.1, Skype Translator translates spoken and text Skype conversations in near real time, enabling users to carry on more natural video calls. First demoed in May 2014 by Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, the app impressed observers with its ability to accurately and responsively translate a Skype video call between Pall and his German colleague Diana Heinrichs. Backed by Microsoft's machine learning research, the app provided them with spoken and on-screen text translations from English to German, and vice versa, with few hiccups. Interestingly, Skype Translator still doesn't support German, but the addition of Mandarin represents a breakthrough, of sorts, for the technology.
"As you can imagine, Mandarin is a very challenging language to learn, even for Skype Translator," said Khan. "With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master, along with Arabic, Japanese, and Korean."