Microsoft gets you speaking Mandarin in one hour

Microsoft Research
Pulling faces – you could soon see yourself speaking in tongues

Microsoft Research is working on a project that will let users translate their own voice into other languages.

During a demonstration at Microsoft's Redmond campus, research scientist Frank Soong showed off the translation skills of the new software which could see Star Trek's Universal Translator become reality.

In the demo he translated the voice Microsoft Research's Rick Rashid into Spanish, Italian and Mandarin Chinese.

Soong said: "for a monolingual speaker traveling in a foreign country, we'll do speech recognition followed by translation, followed by the final text to speech output [in] a different language, but still in his own voice."

Learn Mandarin by mimicking your Chinese self

The software could help learn a new language by providing foreign phrases in a user's own voice. This could make the phrases easier to imitate and generally encourage progress.

During the demonstration Soong also showed the system's possible applications for navigation as a stock English synthetic voice read out Chinese road signs in Beijing route instructions.

To translate a person's own voice into a different language the system needs roughly an hour of training. After that it tweaks the individual voice sounds to allow it to accurately produce phrases in other languages.

The system can convert between 26 different languages and mean there's soon even less incentive for native English speakers to learn another language.

From Microsoft Research via MIT Technology Review, The Verge