Microsoft’s Skype Translator’s newest skill is rather impressive, as its creators have given it the ability to speak Arabic.
According to a blog post, adding each language was a significant step forward, as it brought the translator closer to its goal: “breaking down language barriers for people across the world.”
However, releasing the Arabic language update has been especially important, said Skype, as it can now cover “such a diverse Arabic speaking population all over the world.”
In more technical terms, the Skype Translator can now understand Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is widely used in Northern Africa and the Middle East. MSA is the official language taught in schools and used in the Arab-speaking territories in formal and written communications.
Apart from MSA, there are hundreds of dialects that vary widely from country to country. More than 200 million of people living speak Arabic as their native language in 22 countries where Arabic is the official language.
Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Laboratory has worked with natural language processing researchers within the department to train Arabic speech models for Skype Translator – which was quite an effort.
In addition to Arabic, the new Skype Translator update included voice support for eight more languages. The others are English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese (Mandarin), and Portuguese (Brazilian).
More than 50 written languages are also supported by the Skype Translator, allowing people to text with others around the world without having to worry about the language barrier.
For those who want to try it out, the new Arabic language setting has been added in the Skype app for Windows, right under the globe icon. Clicking on it will open a drop-down menu where you can turn on Skype Translator and set your messaging and spoken language preferences.
The Skype team has also released another handy feature with the same update: you can now chat and call with contacts while in OneDrive and Office Online.
According to the blog post, “this creates a natural, collaborative experience where you can co-edit a document right alongside a chat so that the chat is in context of the topic being discussed.”
The best thing about that is that the text and the chat history remain connected, so the next time you open the document, you can pick right up where you left off.
Older features were dropped to make room for the new features; in this case, Microsoft announced the Skype TV app will no longer be supported as most people use Skype on mobile devices, not the TV.
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