Skype is extending its real-time translation capability to include calls to mobiles and landlines, with those who have signed up to test previews of Windows 10 on their PCs getting first bite at the feature.
Real-time translation isn’t a new thing, but was previously only available for Skype-to-Skype calls. However, now you can converse with folks who speak a different language when ringing them up on the phone, regardless of whether they have Skype or not.
As mentioned, though, this is for Insiders running the preview build of Windows 10 with the latest version of the Skype Preview app, so in other words it’s still in testing before it’s rolled out to the general Skype population. Note that users will also need Skype credit to pay for the call.
Other than that, it’s simply a matter of entering the number, specifying the languages you’re wanting translation to and from, and making the call – the person receiving it will be informed that the dialogue is being recorded and translated.
While the translation is done in real-time, there will obviously be something of a slight delay while sentences are analyzed and processed before being translated, and then spoken back.
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Nine languages are currently supported by Skype Translator: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic, and Russian.
Skype notes that you should ideally wear a headset for the best call quality (and therefore translation quality), and that the more the service is used, the more it will hone its routines to become more accurate.
At this stage, still in preview, by definition there will doubtless be some kinks to iron out, but even if a translation is a bit ropey in places, with any luck you’ll still be able to get the gist of what is being said.
As time goes on, not only will Skype be refining translation accuracy for existing languages, but also adding new ones with the eventual aim of becoming a true Babel Fish-style service which breaks down language barriers across the world, and across computers and phones.