Skype Translator is still in preview mode after around a year and a half in beta – and four years in development – but the team has announced a new milestone for its real-time natural language processing tool as Arabic goes live on the service.
Along with Chinese, Arabic is one of the most complex languages in the world to learn, so this is no mean feat, and comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of refugees are arriving in Europe from war torn parts of the Middle East.
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There are almost 300 million Arabic speakers worldwide, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, making it the fifth most widely spoken language in the world after Chinese, Hindi, English and Spanish.
Skype for Windows already offers three of these, opting for Mandarin Chinese but not yet offering India’s most widely-spoken language, plus French, German, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese.
You can find the translation feature in the menu system once you’ve downloaded the preview.
The platform uses Modern Standard Arabic, which is taught in many schools across the 22 countries where it is the official language, but cannot yet accommodate the many local dialects spoken.
Users can either listen to or read the translation that happens as the other person is speaking, or use the IM feature to converse in an even wider range of languages, now totalling 50 options.
At a time of great tension in this region, it would be great to think that global understanding, through dialogue, could be one step closer.
But the app is as yet only available for preview on Windows 8 and 10 from the Windows Store.
➤ Salam, Skype Translator now speaks Arabic [Skype]