Microsoft Translator Now 'Speaks' 50 Languages

The addition of three languages—Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian—helps Microsoft's translation technology reach a major milestone.

Microsoft cloud-based translation tech

Microsoft Translator, the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker's cloud-based language translation service, welcomed three new languages this week.

"We are happy to announce that we have added three new languages—Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian—to our list of supported languages," announced the Microsoft Translator Team in a March 19 statement. "This brings the total number of languages supported by Microsoft Translator to 50."

Microsoft Translator provides translation services via a Web application programming interface (API), enabling customers to add text translation to their applications. The company uses the technology in its products, including Office, SharePoint, Yammer and Bing, to name a few.

The languages, spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia, add momentum to Microsoft's aim of demolishing language barriers, in both the professional and personal sense.

"These three nations also host a variety of business and professional opportunities within their borders. We are excited to launch these translation systems, making it possible for people around the globe to have a richer understanding of these cultures and this area of the world," stated Microsoft.

Last month, in celebration of UNESCO's International Mother Language Day, Microsoft announced some of its progress in helping preserve little-spoken, sometimes ancient languages and bring modern computing to populations that speak them.

"Microsoft Translator is releasing Yucatec Maya and Querétaro Otomi in an ongoing effort to further language preservation," stated Scott Charney, a Microsoft corporate vice president in a Feb. 23 statement. "The automatic translation systems for Mayan and Otomi were built using the Microsoft Translator Hub, a translator product available free of cost to allow organizations to create their own unique translation systems."

On Dec. 15, Microsoft released a preview of its near-real-time video chat and voice translation technology, Skype Translator.

Powered by Microsoft's machine-learning research and cloud infrastructure, Skype Translator provides spoken and text translations on-the-fly. For now, the preview is limited to two spoken languages, English and Spanish. "Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate; people will no longer be hindered by geography and language," stated Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype and Lync.

Of course, Microsoft isn't the only tech giant with an ear for languages.

Google has been steadily improving on its own Translate app for Android and iOS, which is used by close to half a billion people every month. In January, the company integrated Word Lens, a camera-based real-time translation technology that helps travelers decipher signs, menus and practically any posted text.

Also new is a conversation mode that provides for a more natural audio experience. Users of the updated app can "tap the mic to start speaking in a selected language, then tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will recognize which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation," said Barak Turovsky, product lead for Google Translate, in a blog post. "For the rest of the conversation, you won't need to tap the mic again—it'll be ready as you need it."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...