Skype is one of the most useful communication tools around, and that applies to everyone. Family members can use the service to talk to one another and catch up over long distances. Colleagues can use it to collaborate on projects and tasks. Management and telecommuting teams can use the service to communicate and coordinate efforts. To be honest, we could continue this list of user examples for quite some time, but you get the point.
As you probably know, there are several ways to chat on Skype, including via instant message chats, voice calls and video conference calls. You can connect with all kinds of folks, near and far. Doing so is slightly more difficult, however, when you have people from separate countries that speak different languages.
You probably didn’t know, for instance, that Mandarin – which is a Chinese dialect – is spoken by nearly 1.4 billion people. Of course, it’s easier to believe that English – the second most commonly spoken language – is used by 1.2 billion people around the world. Even for just those two languages, and with the best translators handy, it can be difficult for people of each to speak to one another.
Those are big numbers, but consider all the other languages that exist out there and how difficult it is for other people to break the language barrier. For centuries, that barrier has existed for anyone who doesn’t speak the same language, even with a powerful app like Skype at the ready. That is, until now.
The team behind Skype aims to change all that with the latest update, which offers real-time language translation for all.
Introducing Skype Translator
The Skype Translator service has actually been around since December 2014, but it was in a testing stage and only available to select users. Now, the feature has been rolled out to everyone, and it will offer on-the-fly translations for several languages. To be more specific, there are six different voice languages – English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish – and 50 supported languages for instant messaging.
What this means is that people who speak different languages will be able to communicate with one another via Skype using any of the available services, and there are no third-party tools or apps required.
During voice and video calls, the Skype Translator service will convert voice communications to a compatible language for both parties connected to a call, and the content will be output through a pair of connected headphones. The translation text will also be displayed on the screen, similar to closed captions.
The Translator feature will also convert all text messages to the appropriate language via the chat service. You can choose from any of the available languages using the appropriate option, and all translations will be completed instantly in your chat window.
Over the next few weeks, the Skype desktop app will be updated to include support for this new feature, and to use it you’ll simply need to select the appropriate icon, which will show up as soon as the update is installed. You can find more information on how to use the new translation features over at the Skype support page.
Currently, the Skype Translator feature is only available for the desktop app for Windows, and the app for Windows-powered tablets. It is free for everyone to use, however.
What’s so Great About It?
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re planning a trip abroad to a foreign country where you have no relatives or friends available for support. You can get in touch with people from that country and ask them some of the best places to visit, where you should stay and what kind of areas you should avoid. The best part is that you don’t need to look for a professional guide or translator – you can simply find someone with a Skype account. Usually, locals know the best places to go anyway, so it could end up being a better trip.
According to Skype, here are some of the other ways the service has been used by people:
- A recently engaged couple was able to stay in touch with their multicultural families via Skype video chats.
- A small-business owner used Skype Translator to chat directly with his product suppliers to solve problems and forego communication blunders.
- A Ph.D. student working on his thesis used Skype to get in touch with resourceful experts from other countries around the world.
- An Australian was able to travel the world with the help of the Skype Translator service by simply converting key phrases and information.
As the Skype team claims, the Translator service will get better over time as more people use it, thanks to something they call machine learning technology. Because of that, it’s likely the service will be used in multiple ways, as there are truly endless possibilities.