Microsoft started accepting applications for a preview version of Skype Translator last November before going live a month later. Up to this point, the real-time translation feature only supported spoken English and Spanish but now, it’s expanding its repertoire to include two new languages.
Skype Translator now supports both Italian and Chinese (Mandarin). The latter is a significant advancement as Mandarin – with its approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones – is an extremely tough language to learn.
Among native English speakers, it’s one of the most difficult to master along with Arabic, Japanese and Korean.
In a post on the official Skype blog, Yasmin Kahn said Microsoft researchers and scientists in Beijing and China have played an instrumental role in building the recognition, language and translation models for Mandarin. Microsoft Chief Research Officer Rich Rashid demonstrated the company’s voice recognition advancements in 2012 which used a technique called deep neural networks.
Other changes accompanying the new languages include the ability to hear instant messages from people in the language of your choice and automatic volume control. The latter feature allows a user to hear the translation at full volume with the other caller’s original voice at a lower level. There’s also now an option to turn the translated audio off should you only want to follow along with the transcript.
If you’re interested in trying out the new service, you can sign up for Skype Translator by clicking here.